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Bioplastics from renewable resources: the benefits of biodegradability

Authors


Francesco Degli Innocenti, Novamont, via Fauser 8, 28100 Novara, Italy. E-mail: fdi@novamont.com

ABSTRACT

Bioplastics made with renewable resources are now ready for full commercial exploitation. Starch-based plastics are an important class of bioplastics used to make biodegradable products. Biodegradability can contribute to alleviating the waste problem of our current society. In this paper, three case studies based on the use of starch-based plastics are shown. Biodegradable products can both reduce the amount of waste produced and increase material recycling and landfill diversion. The products analysed and the main effects of shifting towards biodegradable plastics are examined next. By using biodegradable mulch film, waste passes from 400 up to ≈ 0 kg per mulched hectare. By using biodegradable catering items, the average recycling (including organic recycling) rate increases from ≈ 0 up to 50% whereas landfill diversion increases by 36% on average across EU-27. By shifting towards biodegradable carrier bags, a substantial reduction of contaminants present in bio-waste and screened off by composting plants results in an almost fivefold increase of bio-waste quality. The possibility of shifting from heterogeneous waste (non-biodegradable plastics + bio-waste) into homogeneous waste (biodegradable plastics + bio-waste) makes the use of bioplastics particularly beneficial for the waste management ecoprofile as shown by previous life cycle assessment studies available in literature. © 2012 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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