What Are Bioplastics Used For?
Bioplastics are plastics in which all carbon is derived from renewable feedstocks. They may or may not be biodegradable. Biobased plastics contain both renewable and fossil-fuel-based carbon. The percentage of biobased ingredients and the conditions under which the biobased product may biodegrade, if at all, vary widely. Some common applications of bioplastics are packaging materials, dining utensils, food packaging, and insulation.
Products on the market are made from a variety of natural feedstocks including corn, potatoes, rice, tapioca, palm fiber, wood cellulose, wheat fiber and bagasse. Biodegradable bioplastics are used for disposable items, such as [packaging] and catering items (crockery, cutlery, pots, bowls, straws). They are also often used for bags, trays, containers for fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat, bottles for soft drinks and dairy products, and blister foils for fruit and vegetables.
Nondisposable applications for bioplastics include mobile phone casings, carpet fibers, and car interiors, fuel line and plastic pipe applications, and new electroactive bioplastics are being developed that can be used to carry electrical current. In these areas, the goal is not biodegradability, but to create items from sustainable resources.
At one time bioplastics were too expensive for consideration as a replacement for petroleum-based plastics but now the lower temperatures needed to process bioplastics and the more stable supply of biomass combined with the increasing cost of crude oil make bioplastics price more competitive with regular plastics.
The production and use of bioplastics is generally regarded as a more sustainable activity when compared with plastic production from petroleum (petroplastic), because it relies less on fossil fuel as a carbon source and also introduces fewer, net-new greenhouse emissions if it biodegrades. They significantly reduce hazardous waste caused by oil-derived plastics, which remain solid for hundreds of years, and opens a new era in packing technology and the packaging industry.
Sources: www.sustainableplastics.org and wikipedia