The global polymer and plastic material production increased substantially in the last decade reaching in 2016 the staggering amount of about 500 million metric tons. China is the largest producers with around 25% of the global production and 20% by NASFTA countries (USA, Canada, and Mexico). In Europe, there are 60,000 plastics factories, with direct employment of 1.45 million people. Today, an average person in developed countries consumes over 100 kg of plastic each year (packaging materials and household items).
The Green chemistry of polymers with degradable products and biobased plastics are considered in the right direction for sustainability in the polymer field. PolyLactic Acid (PLA - globally marketed in 2003) has been implemented into a commodity plastic and nowadays is produced in a large amount. Its applications included packaging, durable plastics, and fibers. There are promising market segments for biodegradable polymers: plastic bags for household bio waste, barriers for sanitary products and diapers, planting cups, disposable cups and plates as well as foamed fillers. Commercial markets for biodegradable polymers are expected to increase substantially in the coming years. Its low toxicity along with its environmentally benign characteristics has made an interesting material for food packaging and for other consumer products. Let me show a most spectacle samples of the development in this field. In 2015, the world’s largest beverage company Coca-Cola Co showed off its new recyclable 100% bio-based bottles at the Expo Milano. The new recyclable PlantBottleTM was the first plastic to be made 100% from sugar cane in Brazil. The consortium of BASF, Cargill, and Novozymes has selected a method to make biobased acrylic acid for superabsorbent polymers. In 2014 Invista introduced a new version of its Lycra brand spandex that it touts as being 70% from dextrose derived from corn. BASF developed a compostable polyester film that called Ecoflex® and Ecovio® - fully biodegradable product based on cassava starch and calcium carbonate. In the paper, many practical aspects as well as prospects for the further development of biopolymers application in the production of biodegradable packaging are discussed.
One of the particular example can be production of foamed packaging materials, commonly used during transportation of various types of products. Plastics origin they are a source of difficult to handle waste. Many inventors are convinced that the substitution of polymeric porous materials with starch-based products encounters difficulties due to limited moisture resistance and poor mechanical properties. Basically they are right but using of PLA or the blands with LDPE polymers together with natural substances as plant fibbers can improve the properties of the final product. The lack of industrial solutions in this area encouraged us to undertake the experimental program aimed at obtaining fully biodegradable foamed fillers, useful in the packaging. Presented in the paper results, along with some conclusive remarks have to be taken as a concrete example of Green Chemistry practical applications in processing of degradable and recycled polymers.
Audience Take Away:
- Short review of state of art in biopolimers application in production of packaging materials.
- Future trends in that field.
- Practical research results of the processing of starchy foamed fillers and provide new information to assist in a design problem.