- Bio-based plastics means they are developed form biomass (plants) such as corn, sugarcane, vegetable oil or wood pulp. Biodegradable plastics are those which possess the characteristics of biodegradability and composability.
- They can be converted into natural substances like water, carbon dioxide, and compost by the action of micro-organisms in the environment.
- Bioplastics are biodegradable materials that come from renewable sources and can be used to reduce the problem of contaminating plastic waste that is suffocating the planet and contaminating the environment.
- As an alternative to plastic , the use of bioplastics is being promoted, consisting in obtaining natural polymers from agricultural, cellulose or potato and corn starch waste.
Types of Bioplastics
- Bioplastics can be prepared from a variety of materials like starch, sugar, cellulose etc.
- Cellulose-based plastics are made from wood pulp and they are used for making film based materials such as wrappers.
- Thermoplastics are starch based plastics. They are used for production of drug capsules as starch has ability to absorb moisture.
- These represent the most widely used bioplastic, constituting about 50 percent of the bioplastics market
- Polylactic Acid (PLA) is made from the fermentation of starch from crops. It is used for preparing computer and mobile phone casings, cups, bottles and other packaging.
- Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) is used for making bank notes and car parts etc.
- Polyamide 11 (PA 11) prepared from vegetable oils is used for making oil and gas ﬂexible pipes, and electrical anti-termite cable sheathing etc.
- Photo-degradable plastic which degrades on exposure to light.
Positive Impact of Bioplastics
- Bioplastics are better than petro plastics in terms of fossil-fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency.
- Biodegradable plastics are easy to recycle and are non-toxic.
- They reduce carbon footprint
- They do not involve the consumption of non-renewable raw materials
- Their production reduces non-biodegradable waste that contaminates the environment
- They do not contain additives that are harmful to health, such as phthalates or bisphenol A
- They do not change the flavour or scent of the food contained
- These are degradable, equally resistant and versatile, already used in agriculture, textile industry, medicine and, over all, in the container and packaging market, and biopolymers are already becoming popular in cities throughout Europe and the United States for ecological reason.
Negative Impact of Bioplastics
- But in terms of cost and applicability, bioplastics are inferior to petro plastics.
- Bioplastic production requires almost 80% of the energy required to produce common plastic.
- In 2009, the Central Pollution Control Board tested 10 bioplastic samples but found only 40% cleared the test for biodegradability.
- Biggest concern about compostable plastic is it would take around 40 days to compost during which time it would have already been ingested by several small animal forms, with a likely injurious impact.
- Bioplastic claims biodegradability on exposure to water:-
- The only standards on this require that within six months, the plastic must have disintegrated into bits smaller than 2 millimetres and that biodegradation must have progressed so that at least 30% of the carbon has been converted by microorganisms (such as bacteria) into carbon dioxide.
- This leaves the plastic to contaminate the seas for six months and more.
- And if they touch the bottom of the sea, they may not degrade at all, because it is much colder than the 30 degrees Celsius that is their ideal degradation temperature.
- According to scientists, such micro-plastics cause extreme damage to marine life.
- People cannot differentiate bioplastics from regular plastics in the trash. In India there is hardly any segregation of wet and dry waste so it is unlikely that even the best bioplastics will be pulled out for treatment.
- Not all bioplastics are biodegradable
Instead of revolving around plastics it’s better into alternative techniques which are more environment friendly like composting and making people aware about the importance of waste management and protecting the environment.