Bioplastics from plants

Bioplastics are plants as plastic; such as starch-based plants like potatoes into plastic in addition to casserole, or hashbrowns. That is the new world of bioplastics.

Bioplastics came about due to a need to find less pollutive ways to create plastics.

It is possible due to the strength of plant fibers at the microscopic level.

DuPont, Toyota Motor Corp, and Cereplast are pouring money into research and development. Bioplastics are currently made into anything one can turn polyurethane into. Styrofoam products, tupperware, among other products are being made to some degree with manioc, wheat, or potato based bioplastic.

There is research and success coming at this from two different vantage points. One method is trying to change the plants so that theyll mimic plastic. The other is following the nature of the plant to work with its most plastic like attributes.

The biggest producer of bioplastic is Innovia Films. They produce plastic packaging. They employ twelve hundred people around the globe. They produce one hundred twenty thousand tons of bioplastic food wrap a year.

One of the major areas of research is to find alternatives to phthalates that come from natural sources. Phthalates are what make PVC pipes flexible, but they are harmful to the human reproductive system. Phthalates imitate hormones.

Cellulose, starch, polylactic acid (PLA), poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), and polyamide 11 (PA11) are the most common types of bioplastics.

Thermoplastic starch that is derived from maize and potatoes is used in making capsules for medicines taken orally.

PLA is used in Foil, computer parts, and phone casings. The Freedonia Group predicts that this form of bioplastic will be in most demand by 2010.

PHB is used in ropes, bank notes, car parts, and packaging.

Vegetable oil is turned into PA 11. It is used in car fuel systems because it is resistant to heat. It is sold commercially as Rislan.

PHA is the neatest thing on the market. The stuff is created using natural sugars and oils that have been broken down by microbes.

Cellulose-based plastics come from wood pulp. They are used to make wrappers, plastic bags, things of that nature.

Some of these plastics are compostable. Others are bio-resins, which are combinations of bioplastics and traditional plastics.

Bill Collis, CEO of bioplastics startup Trellis Earth says that inorder to not put an added demand on food crops, bioplastics need to find other vegetable sources that dont come from food resources or the land they grow on.

As the change is talked about everywhere, manufacturers of both traditional film, and biofilm can see the shift from traditional plastics tocheaper, cleaner, neater bioplastics, according to Frank Ernst of Treofan; a company that produces both types of plastic.

Sainsburys from the United Kingdom converted five hundred of its product lines to be bioplastics based.

A company leading the way in bioplastic recycling is Interface Fabric (now known as “true textiles”). They have been able to recycle one hundred percent of its waste.

The neatest thing is that when bioplastics degrade in seawater, they become food for fish rather than poison.

With the demand for plastics in the subcontinent of India reaching eight million tones of plastics in the trade year of 2006-07; the demand worldwide for bioplastics is clean. Many countries have a greater demand than India. Its good to know that plants as plastics has become a reality through bioplastics.

Contributed by David Allison

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Posted in Sustainable by admin on August 26, 2008.

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