Exploring bioplastic biodegradability and how it will impact our future
Many commercial developments show promising results and improvements in the technologies used to produce bio-based materials. For example, ABB has set out to automate NatureWorks’ bioplastics plant in Thailand, which could improve production throughput and help accelerate consumer uptake in bioplastics. What’s more, continued research has led to new and innovative products, such as the Röchling Group’s latest sustainable bioplastics, Röchling-BioBoom and Röchling-ReLoop, which are manufactured using renewable raw materials like cellulose.
While this is certainly commendable progress expected to strengthen the sustainability of recycled materials and bioplastics, questions remain over just how sustainable some bioplastics truly are. For example, many bio-based plastics still use petroleum-derived plasticiser additives to give them mechanical properties akin to traditional plastics.
Not only does this continue to rely on the availability of fossil fuels, it also greatly affects the material’s biodegradability and environmental impacts. These materials will still require industrial processing to be recycled or broken down, potentially involving energy-intensive processes like catalytic pyrolysis. It’s important that future innovations tackle these issues so that the entire lifecycle of a bio-material can be considered truly sustainable. With this in mind, what can we expect from future bioplastic research?
One expected development is more companies working to make improvements in the large-scale processes required to source and produce bio-based materials, increasing opportunities for further testing and certifications through collaborations with strategic partners. Additionally, continued research will build upon 2022’s successes, where access to new polymer compositions greatly increased. The current library includes polymers containing a single carbohydrate-based monomer unit, multiple carbohydrate-based monomers, and other comonomers derived from natural sources such as agricultural waste.
Source: Sustainable Plastics