Bioplastics are a type of plastic derived from renewable sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips, food waste, etc. They differ from traditional plastics, which are made from petroleum. There are various types of bioplastics, including those that are biodegradable, those that are not, and those that are made from both renewable resources and non-renewable resources.
There are two main categories of bioplastics:
- Polylactic Acid (PLA): This type of bioplastic is made from fermented plant starch (usually corn). PLA is biodegradable, and products made from it will decompose into water and carbon dioxide in industrial composting facilities.
- Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA): PHA is produced by certain bacteria that feed on glucose or starch. It's both biodegradable and compostable, making it an attractive alternative to traditional plastics.
Usage of bioplastics spans across a variety of sectors, including but not limited to:
- Packaging: Bioplastics are often used in packaging applications. This can include anything from bags to wrapping films to beverage bottles. PLA, for example, is commonly used in the packaging industry.
- Agriculture: Biodegradable bioplastics are used in agriculture for applications such as mulch film. This film is laid over soil and degrades over time, reducing the need for physical removal and disposal.
- Consumer Goods: Some manufacturers are starting to use bioplastics in consumer goods, such as electronics, toys, and even car interiors.
- Medical: Biodegradable bioplastics are used in the medical field for things like sutures, drug delivery devices, and supportive scaffolds for tissue engineering.
While the use of bioplastics can have environmental benefits, such as reducing dependency on fossil fuels and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, it's important to note that not all bioplastics are biodegradable, and even those that are may require specific conditions to break down properly. Therefore, recycling and waste management systems need to adapt to ensure these materials are properly handled at the end of their lifecycle.