Could bio-plastics provide a solution? And are they really as sustainable as we think?
Most of us have caught bio-plastics in one form or another, whether it’s shopping bags or organic garbage bags. They are also commonly used in food packaging: for vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, beverages and dairy products. While most regular plastics are derived from fossil fuels, bio-plastics are made from renewable biomass sources – mainly corn, potatoes, wheat, sugarcane and sugar beets.
Bio-plastics are not just a single material. Instead, they include a wide range of different materials with different features and applications.
According to European Bio-plastics, a plastic material is defined as a bio-plastic “if it is bio-plastic, they would be biodegradable or have both features”.
In general, materials are classified as biodegradable if they are capable of being broken down into their smallest constituent components (e.g. carbon dioxide, oxygen and ammonia) with the help of microorganisms or enzymes and then they are classified as biodegradable if they consist of renewable primary products.
A mixture usually consists of compounds in which one chemical component is biodegradable and the other is biodegradable. For example, a mixture of PLA and PLA is used in the production of films and foils, canned goods, beverage and yogurt containers, vegetable trays and bottles.
A brief history of bio-plastics
Bio-plastics are not a recent invention as people might think. The Hyatt brothers have developed celluloid – a thermoplastic polymer based on cellulose, the main component of most plants – since 1869. The material was later used to make camera film, photo frames and toys. It has been called ‘cellophane’ since 1923 and used for packaging until now.
In fact, until the 1930s, plastic was almost exclusively produced from renewable sources. The use of fossil resources to make plastics really began only after the end of World War II. There were no further significant developments in the bio-plastics field until the 1980s, when concerns turned to sustainability, prompting people to look for alternatives to petroleum-based materials. .
Bio-plastics are often thrown away with regular plastic waste
In 2019, the EU produced a total of 79.6 million tons of packaging waste. At 15.4 million tons of the short-life plastic used in disposable packaging films, bags and tableware is the second most important material thrown away, behind only cardboard in the first place. This is a sector in which bio-plastics have huge potential.
Technically, decomposable plastics should be thrown in organic bins. However, consumers usually find it difficult to distinguish between bio-plastics and conventional plastics, bio-plastics often end up in general bins or recycled plastic bins.
Because decomposable plastics often interfere with conventional plastic packaging recycling, this means that biodegradable materials are often separated and end up with incineration. Furthermore, because municipal waste treatment plants have no way to distinguish between bio-plastics and conventional plastics, even if biodegradable plastics end up with organic waste, they can still be separated and burned.
In the future, we may see bio-plastics being more environmentally friendly than their conventional fossil fuel equivalents. The long-term goal should be to replace conventional plastics with bio-plastics in all cases – bio-plastics are produced from renewable biomass sources and it can be biodegradable.
Using plants to produce bio-plastics means that CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored for the lifetime of the product, while reducing greenhouse gas. In terms of the environment, it is clear that bio-plastics are superior to conventional plastics.
What can we do as consumers?
From 2021, the EU will no longer allow single-use plastic products – including disposable cutlery, straws and cotton swabs. The new law stipulates that by 2025, plastic bottles must be made from 25% recycled components and by 2029, 90% of them must be recycled. This reduction in consumption of single-use plastic products has opened up a huge opportunity for bio-plastics to become more widespread.
First of all, we should question our personal plastic consumption habits: do I make coffee using disposable pods or should I decide to buy refillable products which are less convenient ( and may be more expensive)? What can I do if I don’t have a plastic bag to dispose of and use paper bags?
Today, there are more and more creative plastic-free alternatives, from straws made from apples, to lamination paper made from corn and spoons made from cocoa. Especially, for the first time in the Vietnam market, Biopolymer invents bio-plastic materials made from coffee grounds. Biopolymer’s products have made a strong impression on foreign customers with special and outstanding features.
Do you want to learn more ?
The value of products and consumers come first, Biopolymer is equipped with modern machinery systems as well as a reputable source of raw materials, ensuring the highest level of product quality to consumers.
To know more about us in the Vietnam bio-plastics market, please visit our website: biopolymer.vn or airxcoffee and leave a message at the Contact section if you have any questions or need support from us.