Trend for the development of biodegradable plastics
I just would like to get background for the development of novelty for future studies:
- What application do biodegradable plastics deemed to be very essential?
- What are the key parameters to be considered for the development of biodegradable plastics for this particular application?
Working in the space here is my input.
Food Industry (natural and sustainable is desirable) - food contact
Cosmetics (lots of waste and sustainable is desirable) see Lush Cosmetics naked packaging line.
Oxygen barrier - No leaching of material into compounds - resistant to moisture (at odds with biodegradable goals)
I know this is kind of a light answer but I wanted to get something out to help you refine your questions if you desired.
Main application is pacakging from my point of view (either for food and cosmetics) and barrier properties are the key challenge nowadays in this sector.
Apart from other applications already mentioned, I would include also agricultural film. In this particular application, biodegradable polymer avoids to remove the material (if degradation rate is fast enough) and the products generated through degradation can act as nutrient for the soil depending on the composition.
A key point to keep in mind for any plastics development is ensuring that the material generates a favorable life cycle analysis in the absolute and relative to whatever it may replace. For instance, single use plastic bags are considered a bad actor and politicians want to outlaw them and replace them with paper and or cloth bags....both of which are inferior in terms of LCA.
A SEA OF PLASTIC?
Publication of the garbage patch study coincided with a new report from Britain, Foresight Future of the Sea, that found plastic pollution in the ocean could triple by 2050 unless a “major response” is mounted to prevent plastic from reaching the ocean. The report declared plastic pollution to be one of the main environmental threats to the seas, along with sea-level rise and warming oceans.
The study included two aerial surveys in October of 2016 that took 7,000 images, and 652 ocean surface trawls conducted in July, August, and September of 2015 by 18 vessels.
The surface trawls also filled in the rest of the story.
Fifty plastic items collected had a readable production date: One from 1977, seven from the 1980s, 17 from the 1990s, 24 from the 2000s, and one from 2010. Researchers also found 386 objects with recognizable words or sentences in nine different languages.
The writing on a third of the objects was Japanese and another third was Chinese. The country of production was readable on 41 objects, showing they were manufactured in 12 different nations.
The study also concluded that plastic pollution is “increasing exponentially and at a faster rate than in surrounding waters.” Others are not as confident that the conclusion indicates a dramatic change in distribution of marine debris. Much of the world’s marine debris is believed to lie in the coastal regions, not in the middle of oceans.
Leonard says he was impressed with the scope of the study. “It’s strong science,” he says. “But at the same time, in this field, the harder we look, the more plastic we find.”
7 Advantages and Disadvantages of Biodegradable Plastics
Biodegradable plastics have two classes. These are bioplastics which are made from renewable raw materials and plastics that come from petrochemicals that have biodegradable additives. Created to minimize pollution from plastic pollutants, these plastic types will turn to compost after a certain period of time. However, there are upsides and downsides to the use of these materials.
List of Advantages of Biodegradable Plastics
1. Carbon Emission Reduction
One of the advantages related to the use of biodegradable plastics is the minimal emission of carbon in the air during the process of manufacturing bioplastics. As opposed to the normal manufacturing of plastics that create four tons of emissions, bioplastics only emit approximately .8 tons of carbon that add to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
2. Consumes Less Energy
The manufacturing process of biodegradable plastics requires less amount of energy and does not need fossil fuels to be recycled. Conversely, traditional plastics demand more energy in production and at the same time requires the burning of fossil fuel. Since less energy is needed, more bioplastics can be produced while there is less pollution in the environment.
3. Less Landfill Area Needed
Plastics that are non-biodegradable are brought to landfills to discard them. Consequently, land area that could have been used for agriculture, residence or industrial applications is instead converted to landfills. If bioplastics are used, there is no need to add more landfills since these plastics can be absorbed by the soil and be converted to compost or humus.
Apart from taking less time to break down when discarded, biodegradable plastics can also be recycled and are non-toxic since they contain no chemicals or toxins compared to other types of plastics that can emit harmful chemicals, especially if burned.
List of Disadvantages of Biodegradable Plastics
1. Need for Composters
The flipside of using biodegradable plastics is that there will be a need for industrial composters to turn them into composts and availability of the equipment in some countries can be a problem. Apart from the cost, not all countries have the proper equipment especially if this is not the priority of the government. In the end, the bioplastics that need to be processed will not be discarded properly.
2. Engineering Issues
These bioplastics are plant-based and this means that they come from organic sources from farms such as soybeans and corn. However, these organic plants are sprayed with pesticides which contain chemicals that can contaminate the crops and be transferred or included in the finished product.
3. Risk of Contamination
Biodegradable plastics should not be mixed with non-biodegradable plastics when thrown in garbage bins. The problem here is that not all people know how to segregate or distinguish bioplastics from other plastic types. Once these two types of plastics are mixed together, these bioplastics become contaminated and cannot be used anymore. Consequently, these contaminated bioplastics will end in landfills and add to the volume of thrash.
Biodegradable plastics are becoming popular these days because of the increasing awareness on global warming and environmental issues. Despite having disadvantages, it will help to focus on the benefits of using bioplastics and on educating the people on its importance and effects on a global scale.
Let me share a personal anecdote that may be affecting other responders to this Open Forum question. I am currently experiencing a disincentive to recycle, namely passage of China’s National Sword Act, which took effect on January 1st, 2018. My local waste collector here in Newport, Oregon will now only accept plastics for recycling with triangular recycle symbols indicating 1 (PET polyethylene terephthalate) or 2 (HDPE, high-density polyethylene). All other plastics are now collected as waste. Also, my trash collector service has also stopped accepting shredded paper for recycling. Recycling has strong support in the community in which I live, so this change is unfortunate. What it means is that additional technologies/methods are needed to grapple with the ever increasing levels of waste materials in the environment.