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Bio-Based and Biodegradable Plastics As A New Solution In The Industry

“Due to the scarcity of fossil fuels and issues of environmental damage caused by fossil-based plastics, industry stakeholders and huge countries in the world start to develop and invest to produce bio-based plastics for industry usage.”

BANDUNG, aicheitbsc.com--The issue of the scarcity of fossil fuels to the issue of environmental damage caused by fossil-based plastics is increasingly sticking out. This requires industry stakeholders to find solutions to overcome these two big issues.

FMCG producers and global brands are committed to reducing the usage of fossil-based plastics and replacing them with biobased and biodegradable plastics. This movement is gaining attention from industry stakeholders.

Bio-based materials are predicted to be the main substitute for fossil fuels and plastic-based materials because bio-based materials come from unlimited sources in nature and are easily decomposed. Therefore, it is easier to recycle bio-based materials. This leads to reduction of carbon dioxide emission and is useful to preserve fossil fuel availability.

Bio-based plastics that will be used in industry are classified into three main types, such as fully or partially bio-based but not biodegradable (example : bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and bio-based polyethylene (PE)), biodegradable but petroleum-based (example : polycaprolactone (PCL)), and both fully/partially bio-based and biodegradable (example polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) or starch blends). Bio-based plastics are made in whole or partially from renewable biological resources.

For example, sugar cane is processed to produce ethylene, which can then be used to manufacture polyethylene. Starch can be processed to produce lactic acid and subsequently polylactic acid (PLA). Agricultural feedstock like sugarcane, and waste biomass like forest respiration or CO2 are “alternative feedstocks” to fossil primary material.

The most widely claimed benefit of bio-based plastic is to reduce a final product’s carbon footprint, due to the sequestration of CO2 during the life of the plant. Bio-based plastics, such as starch blends, PLA, bio-PET and bio-PE, are mostly used in packaging applications. They are also used in fibres in the textiles sector. Bio-based succinic acid is suitable for several applications in sports and footwear, automotive, packaging, agriculture, non-wovens and fibres applications.

Polyhydroxyalkanoate or PHA, is a common type of biodegradable bio-based plastic, currently used to make packaging and bottles. It is produced by industrial fermentation when certain bacteria are fed sugar or fat from feedstocks such as beets, sugar cane, corn or vegetable oil.

But unwanted byproducts, such as waste cooking oil or molasses that remain after sugar manufacturing, could be used as alternative feedstock, freeing up food crops for other uses. However, the usage of bio-based and biodegradable materials not only produces pros but also producing cons from the sustainability point of view.

There are several cons that arise from this bio-based plastic production and usage, such as biodegradation depends on certain conditions such as temperature, bioactivity of the location, and moisture levels; environmental impact of certain raw material sources is still unknown.

Crops like sugarcane also require a lot of irrigation and this can exacerbate water shortages, and puts pressure on the world's limited amount of arable land, and even risks competition for agricultural resources.

Several countries have paid great attention to the use of bio-based materials for plastic production in industry. For example, China and Japan will be pioneers in Asia, investing millions of dollars to increase domestic bio-based plastic production capabilities. China has 36 upcoming bioplastics projects, creating a total of 4.4m tonnes of newly added production capacity.

On the other hand, While Japanese Ministry included $45m in the 2019 budget for developing products manufactured from bio-based plastics. Furthermore, various countries in the western hemisphere are also reacting to the increasing issue of using bio-based materials for industrial plastic production.

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines are designed to help marketers avoid misleading consumer environmental claims. Companies must identify specific materials and explain why they can protect themselves from the use of general terms such as "environmental" or "green".

Similarly, the EU shares the same view, with a new circular action plan that intends to release a policy framework on bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics. Australia and the EU have taken the first steps to ban oxo-degradable, biodegradable, enzyme-mediated and biodegradable products in landfills.

Marketing campaigns can exploit misunderstandings or lack of information in this area. It is important to note that switching from one type of plastic to another does not address the end-of-life management issues that have led to the existing plastic waste pollution crisis.

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