December 22

Are Bioplastics a Good Alternative to Traditional Plastics?


Are Bioplastics a Good AlternativePlastic pollution has become a huge environmental crisis, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the planet. Every year, 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans. This is equal to dumping a truckload of plastic into the ocean every minute! Plastic pollution causes immense harm to both marine and terrestrial ecosystems and species, as well as human health.

It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to break down in the environment, meaning that most of the plastic waste ever created still exists in some form today. The average person uses 300 single-use plastic items per day, such as straws and disposable cups, which ultimately end up polluting landfills or oceans. It’s estimated that over 5 trillion pieces of plastic are currently floating in our oceans. 

In addition to threatening marine life, plastic debris can accumulate harmful toxins from sewage systems and other sources that can be released into food webs. Plastic microfibers are tiny particles that have been found in nearly all samples taken from marine environments around the world. These microfibers have been linked to certain types of cancer when consumed by humans via their seafood consumption. 

However, all hope isn’t lost for curbing this growing problem; initiatives like beach cleanups help reduce existing oceanic waste while reducing future threats posed by discarded plastics by raising awareness about responsible usage and disposal habits. 

Furthermore, scientists are working hard towards designing new biodegradable alternatives that offer similar strength and durability as traditional plastics without shedding dangerous toxins into the environment.


What is Bioplastic? 

Bio-based plastics, or bioplastics as they are commonly called, are a type of plastic that is made from renewable sources such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips, sawdust, recycled food waste, etc. 

As opposed to traditional plastics which are derived from fossil fuels and petroleum, bioplastics are sustainable and largely biodegradable under the right conditions. This makes them highly beneficial for preserving natural resources and protecting the environment. 

Bioplastics typically offer similar properties to traditional plastics such as strength and flexibility without significantly sacrificing performance. In addition to being environmentally friendly in production, bioplastic materials often make up part of products that can be recycled more easily than conventional plastics due to their natural components. 

For example, certain types of bioplastics are photodegradable or compostable given the right conditions. This means that bioplastics can be safely broken down by microbes naturally rather than polluting the environment through burning or chemical treatments like petroleum-based plastics require.


How are Bioplastics Different from Traditional Plastics?

Bioplastics are a rising alternative to traditional plastics, and the main difference between them lies in their composition. Traditional plastics, or conventional plastics, are derived from petroleum or natural gas and contain oil-based polymers. On the other hand, bioplastics are plastic materials produced from renewable biomass sources such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips, recycled food waste, etc. 

One of the greatest advantages of bioplastics is that some of them are biodegradable; this means they can break down into non-toxic components which can be absorbed back into the environment without posing a threat to wildlife or ecosystems. This is in stark contrast to traditional non-biodegradable plastics which persist in landfills and oceans for centuries causing serious environmental damage like plastic waste and pollution. 

In addition to being eco-friendly, bioplastics also have better thermal stability than traditional plastics, meaning they can be used in a wider range of applications such as packaging for perishable goods, unlike conventional plastic. 

Furthermore, bioplastics offer improved product life cycles compared to traditional plastic materials since they decompose within weeks or months instead of the years or decades required by conventional plastics. All these benefits make bioplastics a viable alternative for replacing traditional plastic products that remain intact for decades even after their disposal.

Although bioplastics cost more than regular plastics currently, 30% on average, this price difference is due in part to lesser production quantities. With more companies committing to research and mass production of bioplastics though, the gap should close eventually.

In terms of application costs, bioplastics tend to be more expensive than traditional plastics due to their need for special handling during manufacturing processes. While most traditional plastics can be processed at standard temperatures and pressures, bioplastics must often be handled at much lower temperatures and higher pressures to maintain their properties. In addition, bioplastic compounds may require additional processing steps such as compounding or extrusion that increase costs further. 

Despite these higher initial costs associated with both raw materials and processing techniques for bioplastics, there are significant long-term economic benefits due to their renewable nature. Unlike conventional petroleum-based plastics that cannot be broken down naturally, many types of biodegradable plastic can degrade over time into non-toxic organic compounds when exposed to sunlight and bacteria. This helps reduce waste accumulation as well as reduce local environmental damage associated with modern plastic disposal methods. 


Is Bioplastic the Same as Biodegradable plastic?

No, bioplastic is not the same as biodegradable plastic. Although bioplastics can be made from renewable materials and are touted as having a lower environmental impact than traditional plastic, not all of them are biodegradable. Many bioplastics are designed to be compostable in industrial composting facilities, however, these facilities may not always be available, which means that even though the material is theoretically compostable it could still end up in landfills or oceans. 

In addition, not all biodegradable plastics will degrade in the same amount of time or environment. For instance, some polymers require specific temperatures or pH levels to break down while others will only degrade in anaerobic conditions (such as soil) and won’t necessarily break down when exposed to air or water.

This means that while they may be considered ‘biodegradable’ they may not degrade quickly enough to have an environmental benefit. 

Fortunately, some biobased plastics are both biodegradable and compostable such as polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is derived from plant sources like corn, sugarcane, tapioca roots, and potatoes which makes it renewable and more sustainable than conventional plastic products with a much lower carbon footprint – up to 80% less, greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional petroleum-based plastics.

In addition, PLA is capable of degrading within a few months when disposed of properly through industrial composting facilities leading to a much smaller environmental impact compared to other types of plastics. 


Degradability levels of Bioplastics

Biodegrading is the process in which microbes break down material under optimal conditions. With enough time, all materials will degrade. Nevertheless, we usually only consider a material “biodegradable” if it decomposes within twelve months or less. Because of this distinction, not all bioplastics are considered biodegradable and they can be sorted into a few different categories.


  • Degradable – All plastics will give enough time and under the right environmental conditions, break down into tiny pieces. However, they never fully degrade back to their natural state and continue to pollute the environment by leaking harmful chemicals and micro fragments.
  • Biodegradable – “Biodegradable” bioplastics can decompose via microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae into the water, carbon dioxide, methane, biomass, and inorganic compounds. To be considered truly biodegradable, the plastic must break down within a few months.
  • Compostable – Unlike biodegradable plastic, which decomposes over time through exposure to oxygen, compostable bioplastics rely on microorganisms to break them down. This process often takes as little as three months and leaves behind no toxins or residue. Some compostable bioplastics can be composed naturally in home gardens while others may require composting recycling facilities.


5 Types of Bioplastics

Bioplastics are bio-based polymers that have many applications due to their unique properties. Some of the more common types of bioplastics include:

Starch-based bioplastics

These are a type of renewable, plant-derived material that is increasingly being used as a replacement for traditional plastics. These bioplastics are derived primarily from cornstarch and are often mixed with biodegradable polyesters to produce a more durable plastic. 

Starch-based bioplastics have several advantages over conventional plastics: they are compostable, non-toxic, and do not contain any hazardous chemicals or additives. Additionally, starch-based bioplastics provide cost savings in both production and disposal costs compared to conventional plastics.


Starch-based bioplastics have several unique applications due to their combination of strength and flexibility. For example, Green Dot Bioplastics has successfully developed cell phone cases from compostable, starch-based plastics. Additionally, starch-based materials also offer the potential for use in making yard and kitchen bags, food service disposables, and various types of packaging. 

The production process for starch-based bioplastic is relatively simple compared to other types of biomass materials; it involves mixing the starting material (cornstarch) with glycerol before heat extraction occurs. In addition to providing an eco-friendly plastic alternative, starch-based materials have good tensile properties which makes them well-suited for packaging applications. 



Protein-based bioplastics are an excellent alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics for food packaging applications. Protein-based bioplastic films and coatings from plant and animal sources such as wheat gluten, casein, and milk make use of renewable resources with a lower environmental impact than fossil fuels. 


Aliphatic Polyesters

Aliphatic polyester bioplastic is a type of plastic derived from renewable sources and has become increasingly popular due to its sustainability and environmental friendliness. It is composed of different polymers such as polylactic acid (PLA), polyglycolic acid (PGA), poly-ε-caprolactone (PCL), polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), and poly(3-hydroxy valerate). Aliphatic polyester bioplastics can be used in a wide range of applications, such as biomedical devices, medical supplies, drug delivery systems, and surgical implants.

One of the major benefits of aliphatic polyester bioplastic is that it is compostable or recyclable. This means that these materials can be reused or recycled after use instead of being sent to landfills or burned. Secondly, they possess unique properties that make them suitable for various uses in medical technology and beyond. 

For instance, PLA exhibits excellent mechanical properties such as tensile strength and stiffness, while PHB offers good flexibility. Other properties include gas barrier properties, water vapor permeability, thermal resistance, and low melting point. 

Moreover, aliphatic polyester bioplastics are generally hydrophobic which makes them resistant to hydrolytic degradation compared to other plastics. This also makes them suitable for use in food packaging as well as other areas where contact with moisture must be avoided.

Currently, there are several manufacturers involved in producing aliphatic polyester bioplastics including NatureWorks LLC., BASF Biomaterials Division, Eastman Chemical Company, and Toray Industries Inc., among others. These companies have been working hard to create new formulations that offer improved performance while still meeting the required safety standards. 


Bio-derived Polyethylene

Bio-derived Polyethylene bioplastic, or PET, is a versatile, lightweight, and strong material made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It is produced by fermenting raw agricultural materials such as sugarcane and corn, rather than fossil fuels, thus making it an environmentally friendly option. 

This eco-friendly bioplastic has a wide range of applications. For example, it can be used for industrial bulk containers as well as in food packaging – for bottles and cans of milk and fruit juice, trays and crates, caps, and jerry cans. It also offers excellent chemical resistance which makes it suitable for harsh environments with chemicals or high temperatures. 

In terms of its physical properties, PET is strong yet lightweight with good tensile strength. It is heat resistive up to temperatures of 270°F (132°C) and not flammable (it will melt but not ignite). It also has good insulation properties which make it ideal for electrical applications like wire coatings or cable jackets. PET can be recycled up to 10 times without any major degradation in quality.



Cellulose-based bioplastic is a type of biodegradable plastic made from cellulose, the main component of plants such as wood, cotton, and other natural fibers. It has many advantages over traditional petroleum-based plastics. First, it is a much more renewable resource than petroleum as it can be sourced directly from plant matter. 

Additionally, its production process produces far fewer Carbon dioxide emissions than that of petrochemical plastics. As such, it is an attractive alternative for companies looking to reduce their environmental footprint. Cellulose-based bioplastic from plants can function as thermoplastics, extruded films, eyeglass frames, electronics, and other materials.


International Evaluation Standards

There are a lot of raw materials and products on the market, how can you tell which ones will biodegrade? According to international standards, the answer lies in proper evaluation.



This standard is used to assess the ability of a material to decompose into plant fertilizers. It is recognized worldwide in both commercial and industrial settings.



This certification indicates that the source of products made from renewable ingredients (e.g., potato, cassava, corn) is established but does not guarantee full biodegradability.



This standard is similar to TUV OK BIOBASED and ensures product sources are from renewable materials like those mentioned above.


Biodegradable Product Institute Compostable (BPI)

This mark demonstrates a product’s capability to safely decompose under ASTM D6400-compliant conditions when exposed to an industrial composting environment. 



The product will decompose safely following EN 13432 standards when exposed to industrial composting conditions. 



The product will decompose safely under EN 13432 standards when exposed to home composting conditions instead of industrial ones. 


TUV OK Biodegradable SOIL

guarantee that this product will decompose harmlessly underground and have zero negative environmental effects.


Are Bioplastics an Eco-friendly Option?

Bio-plastics have gained traction in recent years as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics. But is it a better option for the environment? To answer this question, we need to consider not only the production of bioplastics but also their disposal. 

The most immediate benefit of bioplastics is that they can replace some of the fossil fuels used in plastic production and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, when it comes to manufacturing bioplastics, other impacts must be taken into account. The growing of plants for bioplastic production often involves chemical fertilizers and pesticides, along with chemical processing. So while producing bio-plastics may reduce the use of fossil fuels, there are still environmental concerns associated with their manufacture.

In terms of disposal, there are two main types of bioplastics: those that are recyclable and those that are compostable or biodegradable. Recyclable materials can be collected by recycling facilities and transformed into new products, whereas compostable and biodegradable materials will eventually decompose in nature if they end up in landfills or other areas where organic waste is likely to accumulate. Therefore, compostable and biodegradable materials are preferable when it comes to preventing plastic pollution. 

Not all biodegradable plastics are truly eco-friendly however; some contain substances such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that take a very long time to break down. Additionally, many countries lack adequate collection systems for organic waste so these materials cannot always be disposed of properly – meaning they end up adding to the existing plastic pollution problem instead of helping solve it. 


Overall, while certain types of bio-plastics can help reduce our reliance on petroleum-based products and minimize greenhouse gas emissions during production, their eco-friendliness depends greatly on how they’re disposed of. 

For example, if bio-plastic bags replaced traditional plastic bags but ended up being littered anyway then they would not do much good in reducing plastic pollution. This underscores the importance of having proper collection systems in place so that even compostable and biodegradable materials can be collected and diverted from landfills or waterways where they might cause harm to the environment.


Advantages of Using Bioplastics

  • Generates fewer emissions during production compared to traditional plastic, making it more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
  • Does not contain BPAs or other endocrine-disrupting toxins, making it safer for both people and the environment.
  • Biodegradable and compostable materials can be recycled or disposed of in a way that won’t harm the environment like traditional plastic would.
  • Can be used to collect organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, and put into compost piles for reuse and fertilization instead of ending up in landfills.
  • Not all biodegradable plastics are created equal: some are designed for single-use applications such as shopping bags, while others are designed to last longer and can be reused multiple times before being discarded properly in recycling facilities or by composting them at home.
  • Plastic pollution is a huge problem today; using bioplastics is one way to reduce dependency on traditional plastic which has been identified as one of the major contributors to environmental damage caused by human activities worldwide. 
  • Biodegradable bioplastics are an excellent solution when it comes to replacing single-use plastic items such as grocery bags, straws, cups, cutlery, etc. since they decompose much faster than regular plastics and don’t release pollutants into the environment upon disposal.


Disadvantages of Using Bioplastics

  • Not all biodegradable plastics can be broken down properly in all conditions, such as some need high temperatures and pressure for proper degradation. 
  • Due to the cost of production, bioplastics tend to be more expensive to the consumer than regular plastic materials. 
  • Plastic pollution is still a major issue in many parts of the world due to the improper disposal of bioplastics by consumers who mistake them for standard plastic bags or other products that can’t be recycled or composted. 
  • Recycling facilities may not be able to collect organic waste generated from bioplastic material as they are not designed to do so, leading to more contamination in landfills and oceans. 
  • There is also a danger of greenwashing when it comes to using bioplastics, as some companies may exaggerate the eco-friendly nature of their products to attract customers without providing accurate information about the potential environmental effects and drawbacks associated with them. 
  • The production of bioplastics is often dependent on staple cash crops like corn and wheat, which could lead to higher prices or shortages if crop yields are reduced due to drought or other climate changes affecting food supply chains around the world.


Final Word

Making the right decision regarding which materials to use and how to dispose of them is essential when considering the plastic footprint of your business. Thorough research should be conducted to find out what kind of bioplastic is available, as well as its biodegradability and end-of-life plan. Additionally, finding a product made from recycled content can help reduce plastic waste even further.

Business owners should also be aware that not all bioplastics are created equal – some are more sustainable than others, depending on their production process and materials. For instance, bioplastics made from plant-based sources like corn starch or vegetable oil may have a lower environmental impact than those derived from petrochemical sources such as petroleum. It is also important to consider the energy inputs required for producing these materials, as well as their emissions output during production. 

When selecting packaging and other materials for your business operations, it is key to choose products that are both recyclable and compostable where possible. Where this isn’t feasible, there are still ways to minimize your plastic footprint – using reusable containers or bags over single-use plastics helps cut down on waste in the long run. Companies can also look into partnering with recycling schemes or donation initiatives that focus on collecting hard-to-recycle items such as e-waste or used batteries. 

Overall, making sure you are informed about the materials you choose for your business operations and disposing of them properly can help reduce your company’s plastic footprint significantly. Doing so will not only benefit the environment but could also save money in terms of resources spent on production and disposal costs. Taking into consideration both sustainability and cost-efficiency when making decisions about material choices will enable companies to make smart investments that will pay off in the long run.


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