Bioplastics - It's a better choice - English 1
Bioplastics are not necessarily biodegradable A c
ommon misconception is that bioplastics are always compostable and that it is not a major concern if the material ends up in the natural environment, since it will simply break down quickly into its constituents. It is not quite that simple. Just because plastic is made from renewable raw materials does not always mean it is a biodegradable product that breaks down through the action of microorganisms. Likewise, not all biodegradable products break down quickly enough to meet the criteria for compostability. The terms used here are defined in more detail on page 17. Therefore, the term biobased does not always mean a product is biodegradable/compostable. There are bioplastics on the market that are made from renewable materials that break down the same way as fossil-based plastics: has the exact same chemical structure as its fossil-based counterpart. This indicates that the bioplastics are not biodegradable, yet they do have a bio content that contributes to a reduced carbon footprint. For example, bio-based PE, PP, PET and PA are not biodegradable and do not meet the requirements for compostability under European standard EN 13432. These bioplastics have the same properties as their fossil-based counterparts and can be processed in the same manner as conventional fossil-based plastics. An additional advantage is that they can easily be co-mingled and recycled with conventional fossil-based plastics. At just over 25 percent of the total bioplastics market, the largest bioplastic in this segment by volume is PET. Bio-PP and PEF are still in the development stage, though they are expected to be available on a commercial scale by 2023. What is the difference? None. Fossil-based polyethylene Bio-based polyethylene Biobased within a known family – these have their own structural variations within the framework The figure shows the difference between different fossil-based plastics and bio-based plastics and where they fall in terms of the degradation process. Today, non-biodegradable bioplastics account for 56.8 per cent of the global bioplastic production capacity. Identical structure or variant? To further complicate matters, there are even more important concepts to acquaint yourself with: “Drop-in” - means that the plastic is wholly or partially made with renewable raw materials and 12 BIOPLASTICS – IT'S A BETTER CHOICE of their family, which creates characteristics that can differ from their fossil-based family members. Examples include the polyesters PLA and PHA and the polyamide PA11. These bioplastics are also wholly or partially produced using renewable raw materials. Fully or partially biobased PLA, PHA and bio-PE are examples of bioplastics that are up to 100 per cent bio-based. Based on the accepted definition of a bioplastic, a material can have a lower proportion of biobased content and still be referred to as a bioplastic. For example, bio-PET can have a biological origin of 30 per cent and 70 per cent fossil content.