There is no lack of innovation in bio-based polymers, from those that store CO2 to bio-based PET. We look at the companies and brands that are trying to bring them to market
Plastics are made from non-renewable hydrocarbons like oil and gas, and expanding demand means the industry has a significant and growing carbon footprint.
There has been a huge research and development drive around the world to try to decouple production of plastics from fossil fuels. A lot of effort has gone into making plastics from biomass sources, and some of the new plastics being developed have properties that mean we will be able to use less of them in packaging.
One thorny issue is that just because a plastic is bio-based doesn’t mean that it will be biodegradable. Additives used in the final product may make it impossible for a plastic to biodegrade safely. In any case, it would still be better to recycle and reuse the bioplastic.
Another big challenge is that biopolymers can be anywhere between two and four times as expensive as fossil fuel-based polymers. “The main reason is small production volumes,” explains Rob Elias, director of the biocomposites centre at Bangor University. So there’s a big research effort to make biocomposites with increased functionality, such as those that improve food shelf life, for example.
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