Bioplastics are plastics that, as the word indicates, are bio-based, biodegradable or both.
Bio-based plastics have the same properties as traditional plastics and often have advantages such as reduced carbon dioxide generation, better functionality and waste management options, for example in combination with food waste composting, incineration or recycling.
Bio-based plastics have a unique advantage over traditional plastics: they reduce dependence on fossil raw materials and thus reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Today, biological plastics represent less than one percent of the more than 320 million tonnes of plastic produced annually on Earth. However, the bioplastics industry is seeing increasing demand as new, yet more sophisticated bioplastics come to market and new applications and products become possible.
Differences and properties between different bioplastics
Bioplastics are not just one type of material. It is a family of materials with different properties and uses. There are two distinct groups of these plastics, each with different properties:
Bio-based (or partially bio-based), is non-degradable plastic. These include bio-based polyethylene (PE), used for example in shopping bags, bio-based polyester (PET), used for example in soft drink bottles, bio-based polyamide (PA) or bio-based polyurethane (PUR). These plastics are currently primarily based on sugars or oils and can easily go into a recycling stream with traditional plastics.
Biodegradable plastics, such as polylactic acid (PLA), polybutene succinate (PBS), polyhydroxy alkanoates (PHA) or thermoplastic starch (TPS). These materials are fully or partially renewable.
These can be produced in their pure form as fully, 100% renewable (e.g. PLA, PHA, TPS) or as partially renewable, e.g. PBS.
To meet material requirements and preferences, especially to increase softness or toughness, these are sometimes blended with other fossil biodegradable materials, or natural plasticisers such as glycerol.
This means that such blends can have a renewable content of between about 15% and 100%.
Most of these materials are composted as thin plastic bags, but they are also used in injection-moulded, thicker-walled products and have a high renewable content, so they can also be incinerated with a clear conscience.
There are biological plastics that can degrade in the marine environment, such as PHA. The others will not decompose in the oxygen-poor and cold environment for the foreseeable future. Regardless, this should not make any basis for contributing to littering.
Extend the life cycle by reusing the plastic
The big advantage of bio-based plastics is that they are bio-based. The plants, which take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, build carbohydrates that can then be the building blocks of future plastic materials.
Fossil use costs society not only in terms of carbon dioxide, but also in terms of emissions, ill health, and marine disasters.
The bioplastics can be recycled and adapted to different end-uses depending on the infrastructure in the different countries, for example the need for combustion energy is high in Sweden and bioplastics can be seen as a biofuel.
The bioplastics industry is growing rapidly and innovatively. It has the potential to decouple economic growth from resource degradation and negative environmental impacts. The European Commission has recognised the important role of bioplastics in the bioeconomy and the potential to accelerate the transition to a more circular economy. European Bioplastics, the organisation representing the bioplastics industry in Europe, is working closely with European institutions and other relevant stakeholders to create a political and economic landscape in Europe in which the bioplastics industry can develop.
Progress is being made with more environmentally friendly plastic materials. Ösönerplast can today offer BIO-PET, PLA and Biodolomers as a more environmentally friendly alternative. These materials can be used for our blister packs and interiors.