Bioplastics are a type of biodegradable plastic that are made from biological substances such as food as opposed to petroleum. The production of bioplastics has dual benefits. They make use of waste while also making products that are easier and quicker to dispose of than traditional plastics. Bioplastics is a form of polyactic acid made by corn sugars from corn starch or sugar cane. The corn oil is seperated from the starch and similarly, has carbon chains like conventional petroleum to make plastic. However, citric acids are mixed to create a long-chain polymer to make it behave like many plastic properties such as flexibility and durability. The second type of bioplastics is called PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) which is plastics made by microorganisms. These microbes store a large amount of carbon and other nutrients to produce a plastic that has the same chemical structure as petroleum plastic – this time, being biodegradable! Another great environmental benefit of using bioplastics is that it can reduce GHG by 50-75% when using renewable sources. This is because once the bioplastics degrade, they don’t release any extra carbon since the plants already absorbed all the CO2 when they made the plastic.
Ford uses soy, bamboo, hemp, oat hulls, and rubber from dandelions as well as agave fiber in combination with petroleum plastics for car seats. The bacteria from human waste is also an idea to make bioplastics. Preventing all this organic material to be flooding the sewage treatment and converting it to another useable material is a technological advance.
Although bioplastics seem like a great replacement for petroleum plastic, there are still some environmental hazards to be aware of.
- More fertilizers and pesticide use to raise corn crops
- Large land use to convert crops to bioplastics, during the chemical conversion stages, B-PET is a type of plastic that is produced and is highly more potent than CO2 when burned
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