Time was when the word “plastics” conjured up images of islands of floating polyurethane plastic bottles in an otherwise beautiful blue placid sea. Worse yet, were actual photographs of bird and sea life chocking to death from plastic ring carriers.
That was then. Today, many industry resin producers, as well as plastic injection molders, are a the forefront of advances in the development of bio-resins — plastics which can either by recycled or broken down into tiny parts, or even inert organic chemicals, thus reducing plastics in land-fills and in waterways. Although there are no set standards for what it means for plastics to be “green,” there are generally-accepted characteristics of these resins:
- Safer disposal
- Energy-efficient manufacturing
- Decreased toxic emissions
So bioresins fall into two main categories: degradable and compostable:
Degradable bioresins can be broken down into ever smaller and smaller pieces, as opposed to biogradable resins, which can be reduced to constituent organic molecules.
Compostable resins can be recycled as mulch after being mixed with special bio products at a composting plant.
One type of bio-resin depends on corn sugar as its main base, and is used to create plastics with ranging levels of flexibilities. Products based on these resins can be soft or rigid, are heat and hot liquid resistant, and can be used in place of olefin in many instances.
Degradable plastics, such as polylactic acid (PLA) and other polyester-based resins are the two most likely candidates to be the star performers in this green new plastics world. This is the result of improved technology and subsequent cost-cuts. Additionally, polyester-based plastics are indispensable in “green” plastic bags.
Plastic film, thanks to the medical and food industries, will remain the largest source for both degradable and compost-able plastics.
Fueled by shifting public sentiment away from single-use plastics, global demand for biodegradable and compostable plastics will skyrocket by 20% per year for the next decade, at least.