Bioplastics are large and diverse family of materials with differing properties that can be either bio-based, biodegradable or both. Bio-based, non-biodegradable (durable) materials have a share of over 40 percent. The largest share (almost 60 percent) of bioplastics currently on the market are biodegradable materials. Biodegradability is an inherent property of certain polymers that can be preferable for specific applications (e.g., biowaste bags).
There are three main groups:
- Bio-based (or partially bio-based), durable plastics such as bio-based polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) (so-called drop-in solutions), bio-based technical performance polymers, such as numerous polyamides (PA), or (partly) bio-based polyurethanes (PUR)
- Bio-based and biodegradable, compostable plastics, such as polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanaoates (PHA), polybutylene succinate (PBS), and starch blends
- Plastics that are based on fossil resources and are biodegradable, such as PBAT, PBS and PCL, but that may well be produced at least partly bio-based in the future
Innovative materials such as PLA, PHA, PBAT, PBS or starch-based materials offer solutions with completely new functionalities such as biodegradability and compostability and in some cases optimised barrier properties.
Along with the growth in variety of bioplastic materials, properties such as flexibility, durability, printability, transparency, barrier, heat resistance, gloss and many more have been significantly enhanced.
Biodegradable/compostable products should feature a clear recommendation regarding the suitable end-of-life option and correct disposal for this product. European Bioplastics recommends acquiring a certificate and according label for biodegradable plastic products meant for industrial composting according to EN 13432.
Bio-based plastics can help to reduce the dependency on limited fossil resources, which are expected to become significantly more expensive in the coming decades. Bio-based plastics are made from renewable sources instead of oil and that way gradually substitute fossil resources used to produce plastics with renewable resources (currently predominantly annual crops, such as corn and sugar beet, or perennial cultures, such as cassava and sugar cane).
Bio-based plastics also have the unique potential to reduce GHG emissions or even be carbon neutral. Plants absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide as they grow. Using plants (i.e. biomass) to produce bio-based plastics constitutes a temporary removal of greenhouse gases (CO2) from the atmosphere. This carbon fixation can be extended for a period of time by establishing ‘use cascades’, that means if the material is being reused or recycled as often as possible before being used for energy recovery. In energy recovery, the previously sequestered CO2 is released and renewable energy is being produced.
Another major benefit of bio-based plastics is their potential to ‘close the cycle’ and increase resource efficiency. Depending on the end-of-life option, this can mean: Renewable resources are used to produce bio-based, durable products that can be reused, mechanically recycled and eventually incinerated whereby renewable energy is being produced. Renewable resources are used to produce bio-based, biodegradable and compostable products that can be organically recycled (industrial composting and anaerobic digestion) at the end of a product’s life cycle (if certified accordingly) and create valuable biomass (humus) during the process. The humus can be used to grow new plants, thus closing the cycle.
Furthermore, plastics that are bio-based and compostable can help to divert biowaste from landfill and increase waste management efficiency.
Biodegradation is a chemical process in which materials are metabolised to CO2, water, and biomass with the help of microorganisms. The process of biodegradation depends on the conditions (e.g. location, temperature, humidity, presence of microorganisms, etc.) of the specific environment (industrial composting plant, garden compost, soil, water, etc.) and on the material or application itself. Consequently, the process and its outcome can vary considerably.
In order to be recovered by means of organic recycling (composting) a material or product needs to be biodegradable. Compostability is a characteristic of a product, packaging or associated component that allows it to biodegrade under specific conditions (e.g. a certain temperature, timeframe, etc). These specific conditions are described in standards, such as the European standard on industrial composting EN 13432 or ASTM D 6400 or ISO 17088. Materials and products complying with this standard can be certified and labelled accordingly.
Plastic that is compostable is biodegradable, but not every plastic that is biodegradable is compostable. Whereas biodegradable plastic may be engineered to biodegrade in soil or water, compostable plastic refers to biodegradation into soil conditioning material (i.e., compost) under a certain set of conditions. In order for a plastic to be labeled as commercially “compostable” it must able to be broken down by biological treatment at a commercial or industrial composting facility. Composting utilizes microorganisms, heat and humidity to yield carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass that is similar in characteristic to the rest of the finished compost product. Decomposition of the plastic must occur at a rate similar to the other elements of the material being composted (within 6 months) and leave no toxic residue that would adversely impact the ability of the finished compost to support plant growth. EN 13432, ASTM Standards D6400 and D6868 & ISO 17088 outline the specifications that must be met in order to label a plastic as commercially “compostable”.
Compostable plastic resins are made from Biopolymers like polylactic acid (PLA), Poly Butylene Adipate Co-terephthalate (PBAT), Poly Butylene Succinate (PBS), Poly Hydroxy Alkenoate (PHA). PLA is made from dextrose, a sugar produced by plants (Corn/ Sugar cane). PHAs are produced by bacterial fermentation using bio-derived carbon-based feedstocks – including waste. So PLA & PHA are always 100% Biobased. Other Biopolymers like PBAT/ PBS can be derived from biobased feedstock as well as petroleum based. On an average, the production of PLA resin uses about 52% less energy than the production of petroleum-based resins. Similarly, manufacturing PLA resin produces 80% less greenhouse gases than traditional petroleum-based resin.
Using compostable bioplastic products such as bags, fresh food packaging, or disposable tableware and cutlery increases the end-of-life options. In addition to recovering energy and mechanical recycling, commercial composting (organic recovery / organic recycling) becomes an available end-of-life option.
Compostability is a clear benefit when plastic items are mixed with biowaste. Under these conditions, mechanical recycling is not feasible, neither for plastics nor biowaste. The use of compostable plastics makes the mixed waste suitable for organic recycling (commercial composting and anaerobic digestion), enabling the shift from recovery to recycling. This way, biowaste is diverted from other recycling streams or from landfill and facilitating separate collection – resulting in the creation of more valuable compost.
Certified compostable plastics with end-of-life property are the most preferred environmentally alternative to traditional conventional plastics like polyethylene and polystyrene for a number of reasons:
|Made from plants instead of petrochemicals from fossil fuels||May be mistaken for traditional plastic by consumers|
|Manufacturing uses less energy and creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions||Not suitable for hot foods or liquids|
|Tested to be non-toxic||Needs to be stored at temperatures below 110°F/ 400C, away from hot surfaces and direct sunlight|
|Certified to break down in commercial composting facilities in 3 – 6 months|
|Home compostable grades are also available|
Bioplastics are a large family of different materials with widely varying properties. There are Nonbiodegradable bioplastics made from Sugar cane ethanol like Bio PE/ Bio PET as well as Biodegradable & compostable Bioplastics (Like PLA, PBAT, PBS, PHA & their compounds). Drop-in solutions, such as bio-based PE or bio-based PET can be mechanically recycled in existing established recycling streams for conventional plastics since they have similar properties. Biodegradable and compostable plastics can be organically recycled (industrial composting and anaerobic digestion) since they have end-of-life. All bioplastics can also be treated in recovery streams (incineration and the production of renewable energy due to the bio-based origin). As with conventional plastics, the manner in which bioplastics waste is recovered depends on the type of the product, the bioplastics material used, as well as the volumes and recycling and recovery systems available.
Bio-Flex are sophisticated & innovative resins that comprise renewability, biodegradability & compostability. They are drop-in, ready to use compounds commercially available for wide range of applications. Bio-Flex resins have numerous flexible applications & best suited for all single use disposable applications. They can be converted with wide range of processing methods like film extrusion, injection molding, sheet extrusion & thermoforming, extrusion coating, straw/ profile extrusion etc. These resins can further be tailored to suit specific application needs for increased toughness or stiffness.
Their preferred applications are as following.
|Bio-Flex grade||Process||Application examples|
|FX1137/ FX1130/ F 2110 etc.||Film Extrusion||T shirt bags/ carry bags/ shopping bags/ garbage or waste bags/ Grow or nursery bags/ Garment or apparel bags/ Courier or E-commerce bags; variety of technical films like Hygiene film, agricultural mulch film, heat sealing lamination grade film, industrial liner films etc|
|F6514/ F6510/ S7514||Injection molding||Cutleries (spoon, fork, knifes), toothbrushes, hangers, filers, caps & various other technical parts|
|F6611/ F6710/ S7711||Sheet Extrusion & Thermoforming||Various disposable tableware & take away food packaging products like trays, plates, bowls, glasses, Lids etc.|
|F5710||Straw/ profile Extrusion||Compostable Plastic straws, stiffers, Ear bud sticks etc|
|F6510/ F6514||Extrusion Coating||Replacement of PE lining inside the paper & paper board with compostable plastic lining for disposable paper cups, containers, sachets etc.|
Bio-Flex® sophisticated and innovative resins that comprise renewability, biodegradability & compostability. They entirely or partially based on natural source like corn, sugar cane or castor oil.
Bio-Flex resins are speciality compounds of Biopolymers like PLA, PBAT, PHA, PBS along with fillers & some proprietary additives like compatibilizers, coupling agents, processing aids etc. All these raw materials used are 100% Biodegradable & compostable.
Yes, Bio-Flex resins are ‘OK Compost’ certified biodegradable and Home/ Industrial compostable according to EN 13432 / ASTM D 6400 standard (depending on grade).
BIO-FLEX resins are drop-in solutions. They can be processed on conventional LDPE blown film lines/ PS injection molding machines/ HIPS or PP sheet extrusion & thermoforming lines, PP straw extrusion line or PE extrusion coating lines without requirement of any modification.
Bio-Flex resins should be stored under dry (max. 70% relative humidity) and in-door/dark conditions (not exposed to sunlight at a temperature of 5 °C to max. 30°C (ambient temperature)) in original packing. Provided that the packaging is unopened and remains undamaged, the storage time under these conditions is guaranteed for minimum 6 months. If u want to store opened bag then it should be sealed instead of taping to ensure moisture proof packaging.
Yes, we are among very few companies in the World who has home compostable grades as well. In fact we have quite versatile range of translucent & white opaque certified home compostable grades (OK Compost HOME certificate by Vinçotte/ TUV Austria). The new Bio-Flex® Home Compost grades have been developed for the production of thin-walled/ lower thickness films, which are completely biodegradable in garden compost, even at low and changing temperatures.
Films made from Bio-Flex resins can be printed without any corona treatment using any printing method like flexo/ rotogravure printing.
Biopolymer carrier resin based color master batches can be used for coloring Bio-Flex resins without any problem. Polyethylene/polypropylene carrier resin based color master batches should not be mixed with any compostable/ Bio-Flex® resins due to compatibility issue & to remain compliant with compostability standard.
Yes, Most of the Bio-Flex resins are Food approved to EC Directives and FDA.
Yes, Bio-Flex resin trims and scrap can be recycled in the same way as that of conventional plastic. They can be reprocessed into granule form on the conventional plastic reprocessing plant with proper care of not contaminating with any other plastic waste. We recommend a maximum of 15% recycled Bio-flex granules combined with virgin Bio-Flex material. However, we suggest that our customers conduct their own trials to test ultimate properties of the desired product. Also, only clean material (not transition material contaminated with PE or other traditional plastics) should be recycled.
Moisture in resin will decrease the shelf life of your product and cause a more rapid deterioration of properties. Additionally, processing of the resin will not be consistent wish fish eyes in it. It may be difficult to keep a stable bubble in case of Blown film or one might see fractured melt flow in case of extrusion coating.
No! Bio-Flex resins are designed for disposable compostable applications or durable biobased solutions. Their chemical structure is different from conventional plastic so they are not compatible with each other. Bio-Flex resins do not blend well with plastics such as PE, PP, or PS and even small % mixing will deteriorate the properties of your end-product.
Compostable Bioplastic products should be disposed of preferably in industrial composting facilities (following the local regulations). Landfill or incineration are not environmentally suitable options for these products and defeats the value proposition of the sustainable solution.
The best way to dispose off compostable plastics is to send them to an industrial or commercial composting facility where they'll break down with the right mixture of heat, microbes, and time. If this type of composting facility isn't available in your area, the only other option is to throw them in the wet waste bin which is generally processed for composting.
The number inside the chasing arrow symbol is called a resin code - it indicates the type of plastic the product is made with. On compostable products, the #7 code/ number indicates PLA.
Compostable plastics that are tested and certified according for home compostable fulfil the technical criteria to be treated in home composting. Home composting conditions vary from the organics being thrown in a corner up against a fence to well managed home composting conditions with regular turning and maintenance of moisture levels (back yard composting). Under the latter conditions, certified home compostable plastics will disintegrate and biodegrade well within the time frames at the same rate as would other organic matter.
Compost is used as a soil improver and can in part also replace mineral fertilisers.
- EU: DIN EN 13432
- USA: ASTM 6400
- Japan: Green PLA
- Australia: AS 4736
- India: IS 17088
Yes, Bioplastics are expensive than conventional plastics. The cost of deriving Bioplastics from renewable bio sources/ feedstocks has an impact on material and product prices. Additionally, the currently low oil prices are making it difficult for bioplastics to achieve competitive pricing levels compared to conventional plastics at present. However, prices have continuously been decreasing over the past decade. As more companies and brands are switching to bio-based plastics, and as production capacities are rising, supply chains and processes are becoming more efficient, and prices have come down significantly. With rising demand and more efficient production processes, increasing volumes of bioplastics on the market and oil prices expected to rise again, the costs for bioplastics will soon be comparable with those for conventional plastic prices.
Moreover, specific material properties of bioplastic materials can allow for a reduction of the overall volumes of materials needed for a product or application as well as for cost reduction in the use or end-of-life phase. Already today, there are several examples of cost competitive bioplastic materials and products.
The use of genetically modified (GM) crops is not a technical requirement for the production of any bioplastic materials that are commercially available today. If GM crops are used, the reasons usually lie in the regional feedstock supply situation or are based on economic decisions.
Most bioplastics producers do not use GMO feedstock for the production of their bio-based plastic materials or offer GMO-free options. Yet, even if GM crops are used for the production of bioplastics, the multiple-stage processing and high heat used to create the polymer removes all traces of genetic material. This means that the final bioplastic product contains no genetic traces. The resulting bioplastic product is therefore well suited to use in food packaging as it contains no genetically modified material and cannot interact with the contents.
The bioplastics industry is a young, innovative sector with an enormous economic and ecological potential for a low-carbon, circular bioeconomy that uses resources more efficiently. The current market for bioplastics is characterised by a dynamic growth rate and a strong diversification. Even though bioplastics still represent around one percent of the about 320 million tonnes of plastics produced worldwide annually (Source: Plastics Europe), the market for bioplastics is growing by about 20-100 percent annually.
With a growing number of materials, applications and products, the number of manufacturers, converters and end users is increasing steadily. Significant financial investments have been made in production and marketing to guide and accompany this development. Bioplastics are a relevant and leading segment of the plastics industry.
The factors driving market development are both internal and external. Especially external factors make bioplastics the attractive choice. This is reflected in the high rate of consumer acceptance and increased consumer demand for more sustainable options and products. Moreover, the extensively publicised effects of climate change, price fluctuations of fossil materials, and the necessity to reduce the dependency on fossil resources also contribute to bioplastics being viewed favourably.
From an internal perspective, bioplastics are efficient and technologically mature materials. They are able to improve the balance between the environmental benefits and the environmental impact of plastics. Life cycle analyses demonstrate that some bioplastics can significantly reduce CO2 emissions compared to conventional plastics (depending on the material and application). What is more, the increasing utilisation of biomass in bioplastic applications has two clear advantages: renewability and availability.
Truly biodegradable plastics can be distinguished from so-called ‘oxo-fragmentable’ plastics through the use of labels and certification that adhere to acknowledged industry standards for biodegradation. The European standard for industrial compostable packaging EN13432, for example, is such a clear and specific option, and corresponding certification and labels such as the ‘Seedling’ logo (according to EN 13432) are available to substantiate the claims of biodegradability and compostability. Other standards like ASTM D 6400 & ISO 17088 also certify compostability just like EN 13432.
Since word biodegradation is adulterated by Oxo Degradable plastic, it is advised & recommended to use the word, ‘Compostable plastic’ to clearly differentiate from Oxo degradable plastic.
So-called ‘oxo-fragmentable’ products are made from conventional plastics and supplemented with specific additives in order to mimic biodegradation. In truth, however, these additives only facilitate a fragmentation of the materials, which do not fully degrade but break down into very small fragments that remain in the environment which is much more hazardous than conventional plastic.
Biodegradability is an inherent characteristic of a material or polymer. In contrast to oxo-fragmentation, biodegradation results from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms. The process produces water, carbon dioxide, and biomass as end products.
Oxo-fragmentable materials do not biodegrade under industrial composting conditions as defined in accepted standard specifications such as EN 13432, ISO 17088, or ASTM D6400.
Comparing two different products is difficult as the materials (fossil-based and bio-based) and production processes vary widely, and current assessment tools and methods are limited in their ability to make sound, substantiating comparisons. Whereas the carbon footprint of products (CFP or PCF – product carbon footprint ISO/TS 14067) of two products can be compared, the life cycle assessments (LCAs, ISO 14040 and 14044, EN 16760) of two different products may have limited significance as they can consider different impact categories, differ in scope, and leave ample room for interpretation. A sound comparison based on LCA can, however, be made for one product when switching from fossil to bio-based plastics as a way to assess the environmental impact of the product before and after the switch. Such comparison will clearly show where the bio-based solution is advantageous as long as it is conducted in the same way considering the exact same impact categories.
Bio-based plastics have the unique advantage over conventional plastics to reduce the dependency on limited fossil resources and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Bioplastics do produce significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional plastics over their lifetime. Plants sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) during their growth. Using these plants (renewable biomass) to produce bio-based plastics removes CO2 from the atmosphere and keeps it stored throughout the entire product life. This carbon fixation (carbon sink) can be extended for even longer if the material is recycled.
Substituting the annual global demand for fossil-based polyethylene (PE) with bio-based PE would safe more than 42 million tonnes of CO2. This equals the CO2 emissions of 10 million flights aground the world per year.
The carbon footprint of a product (CFP) can be measured by carbon footprinting or the life cycle assessment (LCA, standard ISO 14040 and ISO 14044). Information on how a carbon footprint should be established is set out in the ISO 14067 standard entitled the “Carbon Footprint of Products” published in 2013.