Bioplastic versus Plastic Preference
Date: Summer 2009
What is the significance of using bioplastics instead
Bioplastic is a term used to designate plastic materials that have
been produced from renewable resources such corn or other vegetable
oils as opposed to synthetic plastics which are primarily derived
The immediate significance of such materials is that fossil fuels
are not a renewable resource and so the production of synthetic
plastics uses up this valuable resource.
However, the true significance of such bioplastics have to be
balanced against the fact that modern production of corn and
agricultural products require petroleum-based industries that
produce: fertilizer, fuel for farm machinery, etc.
I will leave it up to you to determine if the cost of producing
bioplastics from vegetable matter balances the gains of not using up petroleum.
Greg (Roberto Gregorius)
Bioplastics are polymers made from natural sources like plants. Typical plastics
are made from petroleum. Bioplastics -- and bio-based materials in general --
are attracting interest for many reasons. The first reason is sustainability.
Plants are a renewable feed stock, while petroleum is not renewable. It is
expected that petroleum production will continue to decline. Second is price
volatility. Many bio-based feed stocks have less volatile prices (smaller
fluctuations) than petroleum, which makes bio-based materials more economically
desirable. A third reason is national security. Countries that do not produce
enough petroleum are looking for ways to reduce their dependence on petroleum;
using locally sourced materials is one way to do so. A fourth reason is
"environmental friendliness" -- bio-based materials are perceived by many people
as "healthier" and "safer" -- although this is not always true.
Hope this helps,
The significance of using so-called Bioplastics is that they are made
from renewable sources, and thus it is claimed they have less impact
on the environment than tradition types of plastics that are made from
fossil fuels (oil or coal). The claimed environmental friendliness of
bioplastics is often called into question, however, since the energy
needed to process them is generally derived from fossil fuels.
Most bioplastics do not exhibit the strength needed for many
applications, or have other problems that limit their uses, such as
moisture absorption that causes dimensional changes or makes them
useless for (for example) water bottles.
Traditional plastic materials used oil or coal as a starting point in
their manufacture. These types of plastics are designed to achieve
specific requirements, such as high strength, or flexibility, or
chemical resistance, etc. Bioplastics on the other hand are first and
foremost intended to be made from renewable sources such as starch,
sugars, or ethanol. Their mechanical strength and resistance to
chemicals are only of secondary importance.
As a result of the above disadvantages, the use of bioplastics today
is still very limited.
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Update: June 2012