14. The Promise of Bioplastics – Bio-Based and Biodegradable-Compostable Plastics

  1. Stephan Kabasci
  1. Ramani Narayan

Published Online: 4 OCT 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118676646.ch14

Bio-Based Plastics: Materials and Applications

Bio-Based Plastics: Materials and Applications

How to Cite

Narayan, R. (2013) The Promise of Bioplastics – Bio-Based and Biodegradable-Compostable Plastics, in Bio-Based Plastics: Materials and Applications (ed S. Kabasci), John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118676646.ch14

Editor Information

  1. Fraunhofer-Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT, Germany

Author Information

  1. Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Michigan State University, United States

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 OCT 2013
  2. Published Print: 13 NOV 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781119994008

Online ISBN: 9781118676646



  • bio-based;
  • biodegradability;
  • bioplastics;
  • composting;
  • radiocarbon


Bioplastics encompass two separate but intertwined concepts: (i) bio-based plastics, in which the petro-fossil carbon is replaced by plant-biomass carbon, and (ii) biodegradable plastics, which represent an end-of-life option where micro-organisms present in the target disposal environment completely assimilate the plastic substrate and remove it from the environmental compartment. Bio-based plastics derive their value from having a zero material carbon footprint arising from the short (in balance) sustainable carbon cycle. The ASTM D6866 standard, using radiocarbon analysis, provides for the accurate (+/− 3%) and reliable calculation of the percentage bio-based carbon content of the plastic. Bio-polyethylene, containing 100% bio-based carbon content, and bio-PET, containing 20% bio-based carbon content (31.25 % by mass of plant-biomass), are commercial products. The end of life for these bio-based products is recycling and not biodegradability. Poly(lactic acid) (PLA) contains 100% bio-based carbon content and is completely biodegradable in a composting environment. Biodegradability (microbial utilization) is an environmentally responsible end-of-life option provided the disposal environment (composting, soil, anaerobic digestion) and the time required for complete biodegradation is reported. Unfortunately, many products claim biodegradability without providing information on disposal environment, the percentage biodegradation, and time to achieve the percentage biodegradation. Literature reports serious health and environmental consequences if complete biodegradation - that is complete microbial assimilation of the plastic product in a short 1-2 year time period - is not achieved.