Types of bioplastics: bio-based and/or biodegradable

Bioplastics: sustainable bio-based polymers

The types of bioplastics are numerous and seemingly complex. Their classification is rather articulated and takes into consideration two different aspects. In addition to the distinction according to origin and disposal, bioplastics can also be divided according to a further classification: biodegradable and non-biodegradable.

Bio-based and non-biodegradable bioplastics

Some bioplastics, in fact, have a chemical structure perfectly equal to that of the polymers usually used, obtained from fossil sources.

For example, a bio-based polyethylene can be made from sugar cane (called bio-based PE). Conversely, a classical PE is made from fossil resources. These two will have the same molecular structure and technological characteristics. However, bio-based PE has the advantage of being produced from a renewable, non-fossil and sustainable resource. It can therefore immediately replace its petrochemical equivalent without any problems.

Bio-based and non-biodegradable polymers include bio-based PE (polyethylene), bio-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate), bio-based PA (polyamide), bio-based PU (polyurethane), PEF (polyethylene furanoate), etc.

With the exception of styrene polymers such as PS (polystyrene) and ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene), it is now possible to obtain almost all polymers in at least a partially bio-based version.

Bio-based and biodegradable bio-plastics

In the second case, however, bioplastics have new chemical structures. Here we find mainly biodegradable polymers, the majority of which are also bio-based.

The materials in this group have different properties and it is therefore necessary to select them according to the properties that the final product must possess.

It should be remembered that the production of these materials at industrial level is recent (less than 10-20 years for the most part) and therefore requires continuous studies in order to obtain better properties in line with market expectations.

Polymers in this category, currently on the market, include PLA (polylactic acid), PBS (polybutylene succinate) and PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate), one of the most famous of which is PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate).

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