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January 19, 2009

Bioplastics and friends

Bioplastics and History ( In the days of yore )

Biopolymers have been around a long time before Humans were on Nature’s drawing board, as proteins, carbohydrates (starch for example) and even DNA can be traced back to hundreds of million years ago.
If you think about it, biopolymers are a big part of living organisms, including your own body.
I imagine that you - similarly to me - love to eat biopolymers found in cookies and food…all in the name of Science and Discovery and not because we cannot resist those flavours, of course.

Before continuing our journey, it is best to cover some terms and concepts:
Polymer – a big molecule that it is composed by repeating molecules (monomers), just like a chain is composed by links connected together.
Plastic – any polymer with something added to it. For example, it can be a substance which gives colour to the end material.
Bioplastic – a plastic that is derived from renewable sources, such as vegetable oil or starch.
Biodegradable – mechanism by which substances are broken down by living organisms.

Bioplastics’ usage has been growing considerably, partially due to the increase of Society’s conscience regarding the Environment. However, a lot of work is still needed to expand their utilisation, as they are relatively difficult to be turned into products and their properties are still not as good as synthetic polymers.

Applications ( You, Me and Bioplastics )

The usage of bioplastics has 2 main purposes: creating items from renewable sources are biodegradable or just the first reason.
For the first case, the majority of applications are in Packaging (e.g. shopping bags, trays and containers).
For the second case, creating items from renewable sources, one can find mobile phone casings, carpet fibres, car interiors and so on.

Conclusion ( So… You are saying… )

Bioplastics are still at an early stage of development and it is not as cost competitive as petroleum-based plastics. Nevertheless, we are getting there.
The important bit to remember is that the World consumption of everything has been increasing and as plastics can be found in “everything”, we have to find ways to use less, to use better and to use it in different ways.


Further reading and training ( Who let the plastics out? )

If you are interested on the subject, like to use your hands or just bored, check out the links below.
Bioplastic
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioplastic
http://www.green-plastics.net/

European Bioplastics
http://www.european-bioplastics.org/index.php?id=182

Make your own bioplastic at home for nothing. But check with your mother first, as they don’t like (bad) surprises.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Homemade-Plastic/

If you just want to avoid reading what this boring guy (me) has to say and see a video on what was written and how to make bioplastic at home (and the problems that may arise from it), watch
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rmiO3Yqhd0


If you are still not satisfied or you simply have questions on plastics,
you can e-mail me on nunohelder(a)yahoo.com

Have fun with plastics.