From their inception over 100 years ago, plastics have become indispensable to our daily lives.

In 1907 Leo Baekeland added phenol to formaldehyde to form Bakelite. Leo became a very wealthy man and the world became a very different place. Today, plastics are indispensable at every stage of the supply chain, for every industry, product or service.

However, whilst plastics are prized for their durability, light weight and long life, it is these very factors that make them one of the larger environmental threats of the modern world. Apart from the small amount that’s incinerated, every bit of plastic made over the last century is still present somewhere on our planet. The price of this ‘miracle material’ is being paid by the natural world: from the sea life that consumes it, to hormonal disruption in animals, to the area of ocean dominated by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Around 4% of the oil that the world uses every year goes into producing plastics. Global resources have long been unable to sustain escalating consumption. As the cost of oil rises and the effects of global warming intensify, governments and industries the world over are forced to take action. As giving up plastics would mean giving up modern life as we know it, attention is turning to a viable, natural alternative.

Bioplastics are that alternative; they are made partly or wholly from sustainable plant sources, and are often biodegradable, composting at the end of their useful life. Challenging the dominance of oil-based products, modern bioplastics are now suitable for an impressive range of applications without the need for new equipment or infrastructure.

What is a bioplastic?

A bioplastic is a plastic that is made partly or wholly from materials derived from biological sources, such as sugarcane, potato starch or the cellulose from trees and straw.

Bioplastics are often designed so that they biodegrade or compost at the end of their useful life, aided by fungi, bacteria and enzymes.

Bioplastics can generally be directly substituted for their oil-based equivalents. They can also be made to be chemically identical to standard industrial plastics.

Why bioplastics?




sustainable

A more sustainable product


Bioplastics reduce the use of non-renewable, oil-based resources, which are increasingly scarce and unstable in price.






end_of_life

Managed end-of-life


Bioplastics can biodegrade or compost at the end of their useful life. Durable plant-based bioplastics can also be recycled as well as their conventional equivalents.






consumer-engagement-80

Consumer engagement


Consumers are increasingly seeking more environmentally friendly products, and looking to brands to demonstrate their sustainability credentials. Products and packaging made from bioplastics send a direct message to consumers.





intelligent

Intelligent benefits

Bioplastics can be engineered to have novel technical characteristics such as vapour control and tactile properties. Tailored to biodegrade after a determined period of time, they can also enrich the soil on decomposition.







carbon

Improving carbon footprints

Biomass feedstock absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows. In addition, bioplastic manufacture can use less energy in production, reducing manufacturing costs and lowering the carbon footprint of the final product.



Timeline

1862

1862

Alexander Parkes creates the first man-made plastic from an organic material derived from cellulose

1901

1907

Leo Baekeland invents Bakelite, becomes a very wealthy man, and the world becomes a very different place

1939

1939

The outbreak of war leads to stockpiling as the military substitutes plastics for metals and rubber

1953

1953

The commercialisation of polyester fibres introduces the concept of ‘drip dry’ and ‘non-iron’ fabrics

1976

1976

Now available in a wide variety of forms, plastic becomes the most used material in the world

products

1990

Commercial demand for bioplastics starts to develop, driven by oil price volatility and environmental concern

2007

2007

Biome Bioplastics is founded and starts to develop its own biopolymers

ht

2009

BiomeHT is launched, establishing a new standard in temperature-stable bioplastics

2010

BiomeCord for fibres and monofilaments emerges from Biome Bioplastics’ laboratory

lv

2012

BiomeEasyFlow is developed, a low viscosity biopolymer designed for coating to paper, board and film

lignin

2013

Biome Bioplastics begins to investigate the extraction of platform chemicals from lignin

2014

Biome Bioplastics launches Biome BioLam for use in multilayer film structures