Polymers and Plastics


The term bioplastics was coined by European Bioplastics, European umbrella organization for bioplastics.

Bioplastics are biodegradable, bio-based or both.

Bio-based means that the material or product is (partly) derived from biomass (plants or animals). Biomass used for bioplastics sytems from e.g. corn, sugarcane, or cellulose.
The term biodegradable depicts a chemical process during which micro-organisms that are available in the environment convert materials into natural substances such as water, carbon dioxide and compost (artificial additives are not needed). The process of biodegradation depends on the surrounding environmental conditions (e.g. location or temperature), on the material and on the application.
To illustrate this distinction European Bioplastics has provided a simple two-axis model that encompasses all plastic types and possible combinations. It can be seen on the Figure below.

As can be seen in the figure, plastics have been divided into four characteristics groups. The horizontal axis shows the biodegradability of plastic, whereas the vertical axis shows whether the material is derived from petrochemical raw materials or renewable materials. This gives possibility for four groups:

  1. Plastics which are not biodegradable and are made from petrochemical resources – this category encompasses what is known as classical or traditional plastics
  2. Biodegradable plastics from renewable resources – plastics which are made from biomass feedstock material and show the property of biodegradation
  3. Biodegradable plastics from fossil resources – plastics which can biodegrade but are produced from fossil resources
  4. Non-biodegradable plastics from renewable resources – plastics produced from biomass but without the biodegradation property.
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