Bioplastic is a term used to describe a wide array of materials, and is often confusing or misleading. Within the scope of bioplastics are a variety of very different materials, which are derived from a plethora of sources and accordingly have varied properties. It is worth defining several terms often associated with bioplastics. Some helpful definitions in understanding these distinctions are as follows:
- Degradable Plastic: One which is designed so that it will undergo a significant change in its chemical structure under specific environmental conditions, the result of which being a loss in physical properties.
- Biodegradable Plastic: A degradable plastic such that degradation occurs via naturally occurring microorganisms (microbes, i.e. bacteria, algae, fungi, etc).
- Compostable Plastic: Plastic which degrades via biological processes and which, through aerobic processes will yield carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass (humus) at a rate comparable to known compostable materials, and which leaves no visible, distinguishable or toxic residue.
Upcycling is a method used throughout the plastics industry. It is a process of taking waste materials, or products of little to no value, and converting them into new materials and products with improved quality, lower environmental impact, and overall higher value. An example is Valox/Xenoy. They take waste PET (from water bottles, etc) and turn it into PBT-so instead of having a less valuable recycled material; it’s a higher quality “upcycled” material. There are specific standard test methods for determining whether a material truly is compostable or biodegradable. ASTM 6400 is the standard for determining whether a plastic is compostable, and ASTM 6868 determines whether a plastic is biodegradable. European standard EN 13432 also sets specifications for determining biodegradability.
It is worth noting that studies have shown that if compostable plastics are mishandled (i.e., disposed of in landfills-thus placed in an anaerobic environment), biodegradation may produce methane instead of carbon dioxide.
Three useful categories for distinguishing between the many forms of bioplastics are as follows, keeping in mind that compostable plastic is a more demanding definition, and falls within the category of biodegradable plastics. Examples of the different plastic types are listed. This is not meant to be a comprehensive, all-inclusive list. Biodegradable plastics made from renewable resources:
- Starch-based (from various vegetable/plant sources)
- Polylactic acid (PLA)
- Produced mainly from corn (US) and sugar cane (Brazil)
- Lactic acid comes from the fermentation of the dextrose in starch
- Lactic acid is processed into lactide, which is then polymerized to form poly-lactic acid
- Polyester based in organic monomers
- Polytrimethylene terephthalate, PTT
- Polybutylene terephthalate, PBT
- PBS (succinic acid derivative from sustainable sources)
- Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA’s)
- Thermoplastic consisting of linear polyesters produced by bacteria, through the fermentation of sugar or lipids. Many different variations of these monomers can be combined within this family to give materials with extremely different properties.
- UV stable, low permeation of water
- Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (P3HB)
- Polyhydroxyvalerate (PHV)
- Polyhydroxyhexanoate (PHH), etc
- Derived from poultry feathers
- Polytrimethylene terephthalate, PTT
Biodegradable Plastics made from Petroleum Resources:
- Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVOH)
- Polycaprolactone-biodegradable polyester
- Traditional Plastics with Biodegradation Additives
- Oxo-biodegradation additives, etc*
Non-biodegradable plastics made from Renewable Resources:
- Organic-based Polyurethane (PUR)
- Organic-based Polyamides (PA)
- Traditional plastics from renewable resources
- PE, PP, PVC, etc
*Additionally, there are plastic additives, which when mixed with traditional petroleum-based plastics in low concentrations, enable biodegradation pathways.
Bioplastics In Our Repertoire
The following chart lists materials which are either bio-based, biodegradable, compostable, or environmentally responsible. The bolded letters B, C, and ER stand for biodegradable, compostable, or environmentally responsible, respectively. Please note: information in this chart has been gathered primarily from the manufacturer’s website and is not intended to be anything more than a compilation of research.
B, C, ER
|Applications and Examples|
C9550 white, opaque
|FKur||Properties comparable to polystyrene: rigid and transparent depending on grade||B- Biodegradability certified. ER-high content of natural resource materials (cellulose)||7500- Examples include ball pens, cosmetic pencils & bottles. However, hot runners are not recommended as bioplastics generally degrade if long dwell times and high temperatures are experienced.
9550-Disposable cutlery and other complex articles. However, hot runners are not recommended as bioplastics generally tend to degrade when long dwell times and high temperatures are experienced
|BIOTEC||Starch-based (GS2189-corn starch / GF106/2-potato starch)||B.C. (in thin sections). FDA approved. Made from >60% sustainable crop material||Mainly designed for packaging dry and/or fatty food. All raw materials used for GS 2189 are listed in directive EU 10/2011. General applications
injection moulded articles (e.g. cutlery, medical devices, clips),
semi-finished products, thermoformed products (e.g. food trays)
plasticizer-free and GMO-free thermoplastic material that contains natural potato starch. General Applications – short life biodegradable products for single use disposable fast food packaging. Also: thermoformed products, injection moulded products, agricultural products, tubes, packaging, carrier bags, refuse bags
|Cereplast (no longer available)||Sustainable 1001||Cereplast acquired by Trellis Earth Bioplastics— Learn more||PLA. Nearly 100% of petroleum-based additives replaced with renewable resourced material.||B. Compostable, but not in required time for certification. Designed to have excellent impact strength, rigidity, and processability.||NO LONGER AVAILABLE|
|ECHO®||RPPC 20/10||Ravago Manufacturing Americas||Recycled PE and PP compound- unfilled, glass and mineral filled||ER- 100% postindustrial feed stocks||Suitable for various applications in the industrial, automotive, construction and consumer durable markets|
|EcoPaXX®||Q-HG10||DSM distributed by Chase Plastics||High-performance polyamide (PA410)||B- mainly from tropical castor beans (up to 70% ) ER-certified 100% carbon neutral from cradle to gate||Excellent chemical resistance, low moisture absorption, combined with a very high melting point (highest of all bio-plastics) and high crystallization rate Body panel and wheel covers, engine covers, windows systems, crankshaft covers, snowboard bindings, fuel vapor separators|
|Eco-Pure||Eco-Pure (additive)||Bio-Tec Environmental||Bio-Based Resin Enhancer-compatible with most traditional plastics||B- Cost effective at concentration of 0.7% of load weight. FDA compliant, will not leach||Standard additives are engineered to work on many different types of plastics, including EVA, EVOH, HDPE, LDPE, LLDPE, nylons, PET, PETG, polycarbonate and PP.
It coats plastics to help biodegrade faster.
|Ingeo-Natureworks||PLA 3001D||Natureworks LLC -Jamplast(Distr.)||PLA, corn based||C-industrially||Applications include cutlery, cups, plates, cosmetics, and outdoor novelties. FDA approved food-safe|
|KALIX||2855: 55% glass fiber,
3850 50% glass fiber,
|Solvay||The first commercially available bio-based amorphous PPA materials||2855: ER-27% bio-content contain monomers from the sebacic acid chain derived from non-food competing and GMO-free castor oil
3850: ER-16% bio-content contain monomers from the sebacic acid chain derived from non-food competing and GMO-free castor oil
|2855: high impact, higher strength, stiffness and ductility than 2955
3850:lowest flash, low warpage, higher strength, stiffness and ductility than 3950.
High-performance polyamides (HPPA) are designed for structural components used in smart mobile electronic devices. They provide high strength, rigidity and a high-quality surface finish along with improved processing.
|Mapka||Custom blended||Eco Bio Plastics Midland (EBPM)||Custom blended-utilizes up to 60% paper (from virgin or post-consumer sources) combines with a copolymer base resin.||ER-reduces non-renewable content by as much as sixty (60) percent in weight||Food, Pharmaceutical, Industrial and Automotive applications. MAPKA significantly improved properties in tensile strength, tensile modulus, flexural strength, and flexural modulus. Also reduces mold shrinkage.|
|KS Tronic||PLA based, but a unique formulation mixes PLA with plant starch and plant fibres||ER-100% Derived from Plants and Natural Materials B.C-ASTM D6400 and EN 13432 Certified Biodegradable and Compostable||Cups, bowls, tableware, toys, disposable bottles and shelf life critical plastic products, just to name a few. Additional grades are applicable to other applications.|
|Proganic (no longer available)||Proganic- Pro Earth||Propper GmbH & Co. KG||PHA, plant wax, minerals, natural coloring||B.C- 2010 Biomaterial of the Year||NO LONGER AVAILABLE|
|RTP ECO SOLUTIONS / BIOPLASTIC COMPOUNDS||RTP 2099 X 115387 C
RTP 2099 X 121216 G
RTP 2099 X 124790 A
RTP 2099 X 121249 C
|RTP Co.||Biobased Polyamide (PA) Bio-Based Polylactic Acid (PLA)||RTP 2099X 115387C: ER-34% Renewable Bio-Content Contains wear resistant enhancement
RTP 2099X 121216G: ER-68% Renewable Resource Content
RTP 2099X 124790A: ER- 78% Renewable Resource Content
RTP 2099X 121249C: ER: 68% Renewable Resource Content. 30% glass fiber reinforced PLA grade. Because the glass fiber component of this compound does not contain any carbon, this product has been certified to have a biobased carbon content of 99%.“USDA Certified Biobased Product”
|These products are ideal for end-use applications like semi-durable consumer
goods, housing and enclosures for electronics and business equipment,
industrial components, electrical connectors, and automotive interiors. Learn more: http://www.rtpcompany.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/bioplastics.pdf
|Rilsan||Invent||Arkema||A polyamide 11 fine powder for laser sintering produced from castor oil||ER- 100% renewable origin||“The most suitable solution for prototype manufacturing, as well as limited-run (rapid) manufacturing.”
From aerospace to electronics to automotive, companies around the world increasingly use LS ”laser sintering” to speed up design, development, and market introduction of new products.
|Valox iQ||iQ420HP White, Blue, and Green||Sabic Innovative Plastics||PBT 30% GF||ER- Made using up to 85% post-consumer PET (upcycled)||Excellent strength, stiffness and dimensional stability. High heat resistance. Appliance handles, spotlights, electric motors, connectors.|
|Valox iQ||4860 BK||Sabic Innovative Plastics||PBT 30% GF, FR, hydrolytically stable, impact modified||ER- Made using up to 85% post-consumer PET (upcycled)||Electrical/electronics, automotive,
consumer goods, industrial, telecom, food contact applications
|Xenoy iQ||1103U||Sabic Innovative Plastics||PC/PBT Alloy. High Impact, Impact Modified||ER- Made using up to 60% post-consumer PET (upcycled)||Automotive, other vehicle and device (OVAD) exteriors, power tool housings, electrical and electronics
Learn more.Chevrolet Volt (example)