Bioplastics are a form of plastics derived from sources such as plant oils and starches, rather than petroleum.
Note about acrylic: During the course of research for this project, we were unable to find a material suitable for replacing clear acrylic for use in museum environments. Bioplastic technology does not seem to be refined enough to produce this kind of product. The current best option for replacing acrylic seems to be using traditional glass - for its clarity, durability and recyclability.
Update: Though not offering a definite substitute for acrylic, these manufactures have environmentally friendly (very?) similar products and might be able to custom create one.
- 3-form - See varia (pure color), chroma
The following are excerpts from the master-page Bioplastic at Wikipedia. To make best use of our collective HUMAN resources, information regarding Bioplastics in general should be updated there. Information regarding the recycling and environmental impact of Bioplastics should be updated there or here, as appropriate.
"These days plastics are predominantly made from crude oil. However, the increasing hunger for energy worldwide and also political instability in the large oil exporting countries have led to a dramatic increase in the price of oil in recent years. A consistently low oil price, as was seen throughout the 90s, is not very likely in the future. In this context, renewable resources are becoming a more viable and promising alternative for the plastics industry. However, as energy is used in the growing, harvesting and conversion of agricultural crops to bioplastics immunity to rising oil prices is sometimes overestimated.
"Bioplastics are a form of plastics derived from plant sources such as hemp oil, soy bean oil and corn starch rather than traditional plastics which are derived from petroleum. This is generally regarded as a more sustainable activity, as it relies less on fossil fuel imports and produces less greenhouse emissions. However, manufacturing of bioplastic materials is not benign. Energy, which is most often derived from fossil fuels, is used to power farm machinery, to irrigate growing crops, to produce fertilisers and pesticides, to transport crops and crop products to processing plants, to extract the processible biomaterials, and ultimately to produce the bioplastic."
"Terminology used in the bioplastics sector is quite confusing. Most in the industry use the term bioplastic to mean a plastic produced from a biological - and hence renewable and potentially sustainable - source. Cellulose film, for instance, is one of the oldest plastics. It is, and has always has been, made from wood cellulose and is fully biodegradable in its natural form. The wood it is made from can be sourced from commercially managed forestry. Innovia is one of the major producers of cellulose film - some of which it markets as biodegradable.
"Many bioplastics are biodegradable, meaning they can be degraded by microbes under suitable conditions. Some bioplastics will biodegrade in the relatively cool conditions of a home compost heap. Most will only degrade in the hotter and more tightly controlled conditions of commercial composting units.
"While many bioplastics are biodegradable, some are not - referred to as durable. And to make the situation even more complex, some petrochemical-based plastics are biodegradable. The Ecoflex range of biodegradable plastics manufactured by BASF of Germany is an example of this type. This material is used as an additive to improve the performance of many commercial bioplastics.
"There is an internationally agreed standard that defines how quickly and to what extent a biodegradable plastic must be degraded under commercial composting conditions - EN13432. This is published by the International Organisation for Standardization ISO and is recognised in many countries, including all of Europe, Japan and the US. However, it is designed only for the aggressive conditions of commercial composting units. There is no standard applicable to home composting conditions."
Starch based plastics
Constituting about 50 per cent of the bioplastics market, thermoplastic starch currently represents the most important and widely used bioplastic. Pure starch possesses the characteristic of being able to absorb humidity and is thus being used for the production of drug capsules in the pharmaceutical sector. Flexibiliser and plasticiser such as sorbitol and glycerine are added so that starch can also be processed thermo-plastically. By varying the amounts of these additives, the characteristic of the material can be tailored to specific needs (also called "thermo-plastical starch").
Polylactide acid (PLA) plastics
Polylactide acid (PLA) is a transparent plastic made from natural resources. It not only resembles conventional petrochemical mass plastics (like PE or PP) in its characteristics, but it can also be processed easily on standard equipment that already exists for the production of conventional plastics. PLA and PLA-Blends generally come in the form of granulates with various properties and are used in the plastic processing industry for the production of foil, moulds, tins, cups, bottles and other packaging.
The biopolymer poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) is a polyester produced from renewable raw materials. Its characteristics are similar to those of the petrochemical-produced plastic polypropylene. Interest in PHB is currently very high. Companies worldwide are aiming to either begin production of PHB or to expand their current production capacity. Some estimate that this could result in a price reduction to fewer than 5 Euros per kilogram. However, that is still four times the market price of polyethylene at February 2007. The South American sugar industry, for example, has decided to expand PHB production to an industrial scale. PHB is distinguished primarily by its physical characteristics. It produces transparent film at a melting point higher than 130 degrees Celsius, and is biodegradable without residue.
Polyamide 11 (PA 11)
PA 11 or Nylon 11 is a biopolymer derived from vegetable oil. It is also known under the tradename RilsanÂ®. PA 11 belongs to the technical polymers family and is not biodegradable. Its properties are similar than PA 12 although emissions of greenhouse gases and consumption of non-renewable resources are reduced during its production. Its thermal resistance is also superior than PA 12. It is used in high performance applications as automotive fuel lines, pneumatic airbrake tubing, electrical anti-termite cable sheathing, oil & gas flexible pipes & control fluid umbilicals, sports shoes, electronic device components, catheters, etc.
NatureWorks produces PLA plastic most commonly used in cups, plates and utensils. The NatureWorks website has a list of partners that make products from NatureWorks PLA.
Metabolix PHA Plastics.
FKUR PLA, Cellulose and natural fiber blends.
[originally published at GreenDesignWiki.com]