Biomass conversion can be used to produce biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, isolate hydrogen, and produce charcoal. But just as the growth of the oil industry led to the rapid development of the petroleum-based plastics industry, a huge industry in BIOplastics is expected to be developed from the by-products of biomass conversion. These products are especially attractive because of their ability to sequester carbon and biodegrade as soil nutrients.
Europe is leading in this field. With few landfills and high population density, the motivation to produce new products from biorefinery output is strong. At a recent European Bioplastics Conference in Brussels last week, Heinz Zourek, Director-General of DG Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission, emphasized the significance of bioplastics for sustainable development.
"Bioplastics contribute to climate protection, save fossil resources and create jobs in future-oriented sectors", stated Zourek. "We hope that bioplastics can increase their market share in Europe". Biobased and biodegradable plastics are among the most promising lead markets for innovations in Europe.
For more information on biodegradeable Bioplastics, refer to this article on the World Centric website.
Here are some excerpts from a recent article on Biopact Blog regarding the benefits of bioplastics...
A closer look at bioplastics
Bioplastics offer roughly the same advantages as biofuels: they are made from renewable agricultural feedstocks, they offer a direct alternative to their fossil fuel based counterparts (which have become expensive), and they are more or less carbon-neutral. Moreover, as with biofuels, bioplastics can be used to enhance the agricultural productivity of soils where growing crops is difficult. In principle, the use of bioplastics allows for an entirely closed loop and cradle-to-cradle design: when a bioplastic product is discarded as 'waste', it becomes 'food'(fertilizer) for new biomass from which new products can be made.
The first European Bioplastics Conference 2006 which took place this week in Brussels and which attracted considerable interest, offers an opportunity to focus on the green plastics a bit more in-depth.
Bioplastics represent a relatively new class of materials which have much in common with conventional plastics. What differentiates them is the use of renewable resources in their manufacture and the biodegradability and compostability of many bioplastics products.
Plastics, with their current global consumption of more than 200 million tonnes (EU approx. 40 mill. t) and annual growth of approx. 5%, represent the largest field of application for crude oil outside the energy and transport sectors. This 5% crude oil consumption may appear comparatively small, however it does emphasise how dependent the plastics industry is on oil.
The principle of sustainable development and the missing landfill in Europe are reasons for the introduction of the closed loop economy in the European Union. Products have to be produced and used resource conserving and have to be recovered after use, if they cannot be avoided at all. Landfill of waste is not allowed anymore. Therefore the question of disposal already comes up during the development of a product. If easy to dispose materials are used for the production, the disposal cost will decrease and in consequence also the over all product costs.
Short characterisation of recovery options for bioplastics:
• Thermal recovery: Using the high calorimetric value of the substance to produce heat and electricity (criteria of the legislation have to be met)
• Organic recycling (composting): The resulting compost is used to improve the soil quality and as a replacement of fertilisers
• Chemical recycling: Can be an option especially for polyester types like PLA or PHA. By chemical treatment the polymer chain can be de-polymerised, the resulting monomers can be purified and polymerised again. Sufficient amounts of source separated collected plastic waste is a pre-condition to apply this method. The same arguments apply for recycling back to plastics.
technorati bioplastics, waste, bioenergy, environment, investment, conversion, CTs, recycling, ghg