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Bioplastics vs. Petroleum Based Plastics: Which are better?

- Jan 4, 2012

Technical Paper - The application of biomass, such as starch, cellulose, wood, and sugar, used to substitute fossil resources for the production of plastics, is a widely accepted strategy towards sustainable development. In fact, this way a significant reduction of non renewable energy consumption and carbon dioxide emission is accomplished. In recent years, several typologies of bioplastics were introduced and the most important are those based on cellulosic esters, starch derivatives, polyhydroxybutyrate, polylactic acid, and polycaprolactone. Nowadays, the most important tool to evaluate the environmental impact of a (bio)plastic is the life cycle assessment that determines the overall impact of a plastic on the environment by defining and analyzing several impact categories index like the global warming; the human toxicity; the abiotic depletion; the eutrophication; the acidification; and many others directly related to the production, utilization, and disposal of the considered plastics. The aim of this work is to present a comparison between bioplastics and conventional plastics through the use of the “Life Cycle Assessment” methodology. In particular, the life cycle assessment's Cradle to Grave of shoppers made from Mater-Bi (starch-based plastic) an polyethylene were reported and compared as a case study in order to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the bioplastics and the conventional plastics.
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Source : Gironi, F.; Piemonte, V. Department of Chemical Engineering, Materials & Environment, University of Rome, Rome, Italy. Energy Sources, Part A: Recovery, Utilization, and Environmental Effects (2011), 33(21), 1949-1959. Publisher: Taylor & Francis

Omnexus Members Reactions

LCA THE method to assess GWP - Aug 29, 2013
posted by Paolo Rossi at DSM
LCA assessment is THE method to assess the global warming contribution of a material product.
Many Bio plastics are Carbon neutral some of them are made of renewable resources (plants) that compete with food chain.
Plastic made from Castor plants like PA410 does NOT compete with food chain.

Biodegradation reaction gives more CO2 - Aug 26, 2013
posted by Rahim İşler at esen plastik
If we look at bioplastics LCA studies we can understand which plastics better for the universe. Carbon hydrogen ratio in the monomer has a big role for decomposition of plastics. C/H ratio is more higher in bioplastics materials than petroleum based commercial plastics, so too much carbondioxide emission occurs in the World atmosphere.

It is certainly enviornmentally friendly plastic. - Apr 27, 2012
posted by Satya Bagchee at Leviton Mfg. Co. Inc.
However, it needs higher flame class, higher thermal index and UL recognition for most of our industrial & commercial applications.

Bio Based are better - Apr 27, 2012
posted by madiraju s shankara at spc biotech
Biobased plastics if made from agriwaste rather than feed stcok are better as it will reduce the preassure on food products

Really LCA is neutral? - Mar 23, 2012
posted by Corinaldesi Stefano at Keytech s.r.l.
in my opinion it does not make sense to convert precious food to energy or plastic. we must find solution to convert petroleum polymers to biodeg and compostable material. Is also more better to find a good solution for reuse not recycling.

bioBASED is NOT bioACTIVE - Feb 22, 2012
posted by Allan Griff at Griff Extrusion Services
Please stop putting the degradables and the stable biobased materials in the same category!
Bioactivity is NOT always good for the environment -- depends on whose environment, what's more important.
The plastophobes can't have it both ways. Inert is as good or better than degradable.
The food vs plastics argument is misleading -- people go hungry because they can't afford it, not because it can't be grown.

LCA rules - Feb 22, 2012
posted by Steven Meyns at Vitalo Group
Always calculate LCA before changing to BIO.
When using LCA, you'll see that chemical PP has a lower global warming contribution than certain PLA's. Also biodegradation is not needed. We need too much CO2 to produce bio materials so we better recycle them in stead of loosing it again in nature.

Bioplastics are better - Feb 15, 2012
posted by GSS RAO at Reliance Industries Limited
Bioplastics are better and degrade completely in the form of CO2 and water. But the petroleum based ones are difficult to degrade . To do so either we have to use prooxidants or incinerate, it may leads to cost and pollute again. Draw back with bioplastics is some of them are food materials in Third world countries, we may loose. We have to see this aspect also.

Really CO2 neutral? - Feb 14, 2012
posted by Uwe Storzum at BASF Corp.
I do not agree with some of my fellow commenters that bio plastics are CO2 neutral. Seeding, harvesting, transporting, processing, all this requires additional energy. I am a strong believer that the (un - substituted) price of a product will finally measure the success, independent from its origin.

Biobased plastics vs oil resources - Feb 07, 2012
posted by HARRY BARRAGÁN at university of lleida
The Idea is good undoubtedly!
But, which has the highest use? (bioplastics or traditional plastics). I belive that is VIP to introduce this concept first in the people!

Balancing act - Feb 07, 2012
posted by vikrant bhatt at Rudra Bioventures
The time is the key, New technologies take time but are adapted so start with use of bioplastics with shorter life cycle applications and let the economics work out for competitive pricing with simultaneous R &D with lignocellulosic materials. Things will evolve and replace older stuff. consider the example of Mobiles and the call charges how they have evolved from the time they came and are now!!!! Also LCA of products are region specific!!!

Bioplastic Option - Jan 30, 2012
posted by Donald Rosato at PlastiSource, Inc.
Certainly a bioplastic challenge is the over reliance on food crops – a move to lignocellulosic biomass is needed as rapidly as possible. One example is a durable new high performance bioplastic developed by NEC. Based on plant stems and nut shells, abundant non-edible resources discarded as byproducts of agricultural processing, this new bioplastic will have little impact on food crop production. Also, China, a net importer of carbohydrates is seeking to limit crops which can be used to make chemical intermediates to not compete with food production.

food to energy - Jan 25, 2012
posted by Uwe Storzum at BASF Corp.
in my opinion it does not make sense to convert precious food to energy or plastic. Sure, we in the industrial countries have the buying power - but people in developing countries may starve because they can not afford food anymore.
The only solution is to move to the not - eatable sources for like cellulose and skip the poor man's food.

It is very good for environment - Jan 25, 2012
posted by samir elagamy at APC
Really many countries now racing to substitute their synthetic industerial sources by naturally sources, which have the same properties or less, but the cost is less and also friendly to environment.

To grow plastic and burn fossil fuels? - Jan 25, 2012
posted by Colin Cook at Neschen Coating UK Ltd
It makes sense to grow our fuels, since the CO2 emitted is exactly balanced by the amount consumed by the plants. And it makes no sense to burn fossil fuel, because the resource is there only once (every few million years or so) and it increases the CO2 level in the atmosphere. Therefore, surely it makes sense to use fossil oil to create plastics and polymers: most of the work has been done and we only need to crack the stuff to get olefins or oxidise it to get acid feedstocks.

Why compromise? Why not manufacture commodity plastics from renewable sources? - Jan 24, 2012
posted by Sally Humphreys at Applied Market Information
The new "bioplastics" like PLA will have a role, but surely the sustainable way forward is to find cost-effective synthesis routes to manufacture conventional plastics from renewable sources, as with the Braskem polyethylene and forthcoming PP. This is not new - in India and Brazil plant sources have been used in polymer manufacturing for decades when oil is expensive. Aiming to discuss this at Green Polymer Chemistry 2012 in Cologne in March.

It is very good - Jan 12, 2012
posted by Rengin Eltem at Ege University
It is very good

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