The benefits of bioplastics (#SuperSmartMaterials)

bioplastics, koru architects, super smart materials, eco architect, eco design

Bioplastics originate from biological material. We all know that oil and gas originate from biological organisms. But plastics derived from these natural oils and gases aren’t bioplastics. So, what is a bioplastic?

One of the first synthetic plastics was made from cellulose, a substance made by plants and trees. This plastic is a bioplastic: the plastic’s primary raw materials originate from biomass – living or renewable bio-organisms – rather than petroleum.

Are bioplastics better for the environment?

Using biomass raises complex questions about the potential impact on water use, recyclability, the effect of farming, greenhouse has emissions, food supply, the cost of food and other important issues.

bioplastics, koru architects, super smart materials, eco architect, eco designInterestingly, just because a material is a bioplastic does not mean it is biodegradable.

The use of renewable resources to produce bioplastics increases resource efficiency as the resources are cultivated on an annual basis. Cascading use of biomass is energy efficient as it can first be used as a material  and subsequently for energy generation.

It is also key in reducing the carbon footprint and saving fossil resources by substituting them step by step.

Advantages

  • Reduced CO2 emissions
  • Cheaper alternative
  • Waste – bioplastics don’t generate as much toxic run-off
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Multiple end-of-life points – valuable raw materials can be reclaimed and recycled into other products

Disadvantages

  • Food crisis – it takes a lot of land to supply food/product for the production and will be hard to keep up with increasing demand for bioplastics
  • Contamination – bioplastics need to be separated by normal plastics, otherwise, they will become contaminated and cannot be used anymore which will add to landfill mass.

Bioplastic use at major companies Resource.co

  • Coca-Cola launched their PlantBottle use sugarcane from Brazil to create bio-monoethylene glycol for its fully-recyclable, but not compostable, PlantBottle packaging.
  • Lavazza launched a fully-compostable and biodegradable coffee capsule using Novamont’s Mater-Bi third-generation bioplastic in 2015.
  • Loowatt, portable toilets that may be familiar with the UK festival-goer uses bioplastics as part of its chemical-free human waste solution for places without plumbing. Using a patented and simple sealing technology to capture toilet waste in a biodegradable film, developed to also inhibit odours, the toilet stores the waste in a cartridge for periodic emptying. The bags and their contents can then be treated through anaerobic digestion to produce biogas and fertiliser.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts using #SuperSmartMaterials and following us at @KoruArchitects

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