Here “bioplastics” is broadly defined. To accommodate recent developments, I may need to change the title of this series of updates to include “bio-based materials for plastics or plastic-like materials,” though that phrasing is much too wordy!
Here’s a few related developments illustrating the trend toward using more plant byproducts as the guts of new plastic or plastic-like compounds...
Bran: Some of it may be good to have in our diet, but bran from the milling of wheat is mostly treated as a waste material. So proposals are being requested for ways of incorporating bran as a filler in polyolefins for food packaging compounds. The compound must be EU food-contact approved; have similar performance as standard polyolefins (PE, PP); have good, “natural” aesthetics; and be cost-competitive with POs. Look for the PDF for the RFP here.
Wood: Articles in this extensive PDF from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland show a range of developmental work on bio-based materials for packaging, including new efforts in modifying cellulose and the other components of wood pulp so that it can more effectively used in packaging materials.
Plant plastics for plant pots: At NPE2012, Iowa State University researchers displayed bio-based plant containers made from natural proteins, carbohydrates, oils, and fibers. They’re said to biodegrade in gardens (even fertilizing the soil), making them good alternatives to standard plastic plant containers.
So it might be better to call the above cases “brown” technologies, rather than “green.”
Note: Weeks ago, I briefly covered the topic of PET thermoform recycling here. Recently I covered these issues in more depth in an article for Resource Recycling and Plastics Recycling Update magazines – you can find a link to its PDF here.
Mike Tolinski is the author of Plastics and Sustainability, published in Oct. 2011 by Wiley-Scrivener, and he is Contributing Editor for Plastics Engineering magazine of the Society of Plastics Engineers in the USA. His views have been shaped by his engineering, university, and journalism experience in the plastics and manufacturing industries over the past 22 years. You can follow Mike and be alerted on blog updates via Twitter.