Today, a world without plastics is incomprehensible. Bio-based and biodegradable plastics are a very promising innovation for both industry and the economy. Bioplastics are indeed plastics, but very special plastics. Compostability is the main material property, which differentiates bioplastics products from conventional plastic material. This enables the organic recycling of bioplastics products.
"Bioplastics is a concise-and suitable name for biodegradable plastics whose components are derived entirely from renewable raw materials."
Biopolymers have taken a place of large potential source of feedstock for biodegradable plastics because of their plentiful presence, variety of their chemical structure, the biodegradability and their non toxicity. One or more biopolymers combine to form Bioplastics. Even though biopolymers are biodegradable, it is not necessary Bioplastics made from those biopolymers will degrade with same enzyme system. Bioplastics are actually biodegradable plastics. There are two ways to produce Bioplastics, either by using petroleum resources or plant based. Petroleum based Bioplastics never fully decompose, pollute land and water ecologies. Due to limited petroleum resources, their prices and also their disposing problem, demand for biodegradable plastics (which produces carbon di oxide and water) is growing.
"The image of a natural, nontoxic, sustainable and environmentally friendly product has been the driving force." says Clover Chang, Assistant Director, USGC/ Taiwan. Nationally (USA), less than 6% of all waste plastic gets recycled, compared with recycling rates of 50% for paper, 37% for metals and 22% for glass, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to the BASF, per capita consumption of plastics would increase to more than 300lbs by 2010 as compared to 223 lbs in 2001 in USA, whopping increase by 36%. It is clear from this figure that the plastics consumption will increase as the development of new products and demand raises. These plastics are conventionally made from petrochemicals and it's by products. As the petrochemical sources are depleting and the rise in prices results in researching other alternatives.
These alternatives are the second generation of plastics in the form of bioplastics which are not only biodegradable, but also advantageous to our environment, requires lesser energy in processing bioplastics than conventional plastics, releases Co2 and water after degradation, recycle carbon in our environment thereby reducing Co2 production and stabilizing the environment and produces more fertile soil after degradation rich in nutrients and good for further farming.
Global plastics consumption is over 350 billion pounds in 2003, and forecast to grow at over 5% annually to reach over 500 billion pounds in 2010. This means that global plastics consumption is growing by over 15 billion pounds per year rate. As compared to plastics, bioplastics market is growing rapidly and has started to replace conventional plastics. For e.g. in San Francisco city banned the plastics carry bags, NY already thinking to ban plastics carry bags, McDonalds already using bioplastics packaging for their Big Mac sandwich, Biota making biodegradable water bottles and many more novel researches under development including medical and automotive sectors. Some are in research for waste collected from defense; companies are also making bioplastics out of tons of waste collected every year and seeking bioplastics out of yard trimmings. Overall, since 2006 the consumption of bioplastics has increased three to four fold than in 2004.
Bio-plastics are biodegradable and can be made from the triglycerides found in oilseeds such as canola, starches, such as those found in corn, sugar beets and potatoes, or on using proteins from soybeans. Companies like Metabolix, through its joint venture with Archer Daniels Midland called Telles, is using corn instead of petroleum to engineer the polymers necessary to make plastic. The corn is introduced to microorganisms in a fermentation process that yields a polymer. The polymer is then made into pellets that are used to make different grades of paper coatings and thermoformed products.
Japanese companies Hitachi Zosen and CPR Corp. are driving the production of bioplastics from cassava in Vietnam. Cassava is the third most important agricultural crop in that country. Hitachi announced in June that a plant to produce cassava-based bioplastic in Vietnam will start production in 2008.