Introduction of biopolymers, also called bioplastics or biomaterials
A biopolymer (also called commonly bioplastics) is a polymer (or plastic material) that is either bio-based, or biodegradable/compostable, or features both properties.
Please note, bio-based does not equal biodegradable: A biopolymer can be bio-based and is durable in nature very much like traditional polyolefin materials (like PP, PE); it can also be biodegradable-in-soil but has been polymerized completely from fossil sources.
A bio-based biopolymer is derived completely or mostly from biomass. While most of the biopolymers commercially available are still built with 1st generation biomass (e.g., corn, sugarcane, starch, etc.), the next generation of biopolymers is polymerized from 2nd/3rd generation biomass (e.g., agricultural waste streams like bagasse). A direct blend of 2nd/3rd generation biomass in biopolymers to a maximum content without complex processes is saving energy and water, reducing overall GHG emissions and keeping material costs below or at market relevant price levels.
Examples for only bio-based biopolymers are bio-PP or bio-PE.
A biodegradable biopolymer is a material that can be broken down through biochemical processes in which microorganisms convert materials into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. The process of biodegradation depends on the surrounding environmental conditions (mainly temperature and humidity). Required biodegradation conditions shall always be considered (and marked accordingly): natural biodegradation, home-compostable, industrial compostable.
Examples for only biodegradable biomass are PBAT.
Examples for biopolymers that are both bio-based and biodegradable are PLA, bioPBS, ROSECO TPS and Bioblend LT25B.
"nature2need biopolymer compounds are using biopolymers as a host matrix. Bioblend and Spectabio L/B grades are bio-based and biodegradable; Bioblend and Spectabio T grades are biodegradable."
Replacing traditional plastics with biopolymers and biopolymer compounds has several environmental advantages, especially when a high-degree of direct 2nd/3rd generation biomass is used as a building block:
reduction of fossil fuel resources like crude oil, i.e., no additional fossil-based carbon to enter into our atmosphere (bio-based polymers)
reduction of plastics pollution in nature, riverways and oceans (biodegradable polymers)
biogenic carbon sequestered from the atmosphere stored away more permanently, i.e., biogenic carbon to be stored for a longer period rather than released back into the atmosphere through the natural cycle of biomass degradation (bio-based polymers)
We are still facing disadvantages that are very much linked to our current infrastructure and understanding of using biopolymers and biopolymer compounds; disadvantages that shall be solved with time:
most of the current recycling infrastructure is not designed for biopolymers; i.e., biopolymers and biopolymer compounds cannot be detected reliably yet and may contaminate the recycling stream of traditional polymers
end-consumers are not able to distinguish traditional plastics and not- biodegradable biopolymers from biodegradable polymers resulting in wrong disposal methods
material costs are mostly higher resulting in higher product and packaging costs
Biopolymers and biopolymer-compounds pave the way into a clean, nature-positive future with fantastic materials. They do not pollute our environment, do not leave any harmful micro-particles behind, instead they store biogenic carbon more permanently.
We need to further improve related standards and regulations, - very important - make them simple and pragmatic and create clear rules for the right marking and labeling of products made with biopolymers.