Bioplastic is a type of biodegradable plastic, this concept has been around for a long time, since the 1980s.
Bioplastic derives from renewable resources, such as starch, corn starch or vegetable oil, whilst the standard plastic derives from petroleum or natural gas. Sometimes, bioplastic is called biodegradable, but bioplastic seems more accurate, in fact, some type of biodegradable plastic is oil-based.
Bioplastic finds applications in many products, such as packaging, cutlery, straws and so on.
Types of bioplastic
Bioplastic differentiates according to their source, let’s see the most common types.
- Starch: this is the most common type of bioplastic, accounting for 50% of the products, it is also called thermoplastic. This type of starch is easy to produce and it can be made at home as well.
Watch the video to discover how bioplastic from starch is made.
- Protein: some proteins such as wheat gluten can be used for producing bioplastic.
- PLA (Polylactic acid): this derives from corn, it is very similar to the standard oil-based plastic in regards to its properties, but obviously is non-toxic.
- Polyhydroxyalkanoates: this material is produced by bacterial fermentation of sugar or lipids.
Advantages of bioplastic
Bioplastic is a much greener material, see below some of its advantages.
- Low cost: plastic may seem cheap, but we must remember that contains oil, which is an expensive and finite source.
- Availability: starch and the other renewable resources for producing this material are largely available so there is no problem of shortage, this is a concern for common oil-based plastic.
- Biodegradable: this means that it breaks down biologically under certain circumstances. Bioplastic is decomposed by the actions of living organism, normally bacteria.
- Fewer greenhouse emissions: the emissions are fewer compared to standard plastic when it biodegrades in a landfill, a reduction of 70% in emissions was estimated.
- Reduced carbon dioxide emissions when it degrades.
- Non-toxic: bioplastic derives from renewable resources and therefore is a non-toxic material.
- Less energy used for production: two third less energy is used for producing PLA (Polylactide acid), a starch-based bioplastic.
- Quicker to decompose: if disperse a product made of bioplastic will degrade quicker in the environment, from 4 to 18 weeks, which is a very small number considering the hundreds, or even thousands, of years needed to decompose oil-based plastic.
The use of land for bioplastic beetween 2012 and 2017 is still very limited as the figures are showing below. However, many sectors are adopting this material, think about the medical sector or the food sector, but even the fashion sector, Versace has made a clothing line out of corn.
Bioplastic is certainly a better option than the common oil based plastic, such as PET, because it is much greener and less polluting, however we must dispose of and recycle it correctly to consider it a truly eco-friendly option.
Would you like to swap to bioplastic?
Start by using biodegradable disposable tableware, also at home.
Discover here our biodegradable cutlery, bowls and cups.