There are two main types of resin that are used in the production of bioplastics; these are polyactide, which is made from corn starch, and Mater-Bi, which is also made from corn starch. These resins are relatively inexpensive to use. There is currently research and development underway to include polymers that are produced in situ by bacteria in bioplastics, which will make it much easier for the plastic to break down and return to the raw materials state.
What are bioplastics? These are plastics of a new generation and are biodegradable and able to be composted so that they are friendlier to the environment than other plastics. Bioplastics are created using renewable raw materials that include different starches like potato, tapioca, corn, and others. They can also be made from cellulose, lactic acid, soy protein, and other raw materials. Bioplastics are not harmful during production processes and the products will decompose and turn back to water, carbon dioxide, biomass, and other raw materials when they are discarded. The most common source of bioplastics right now is corn starch, but new materials like soybean protein and potato starch are starting to be used as well. This field is constantly changing and advancing, so new materials are being developed continuously.
Bioplastics take different amounts of time to compost completely, and these plastics compost best in a commercial facility where the temperatures reached during composting are high. Most bioplastics will decompose and compost in three to six months. At the end of this time there should be no signs of the material left.
Right now, bioplastics are mainly used in disposable items that do not have much value; in things like plastic bags, packages, and food service items. This could change, however, because bioplastic technology is evolving. Better performance and processing abilities mean that in the future these plastics may well meet more demanding uses. This technology is further being developed in several different key areas, including barrier properties, the ability to print on the plastic, sealing properties of these plastics, hydrolytic stability, and the compatibility of bioplastic resins to blend with other resins. The downside is that the newest generations of resins and polymers used to make bioplastics are significantly more expensive. This means higher costs for consumers, sometimes by as much as 70 or 80 percent. As more research is conducted and technology advances further, this will hopefully no longer be true.
Bioplastic technology has advanced significantly through today and in this field much research and development is still ongoing. Technology is steadily advancing at a rapid rate, with new raw materials being discovered and used in new and innovative ways. The cost of this technology is still expensive because the field is new and more efficient ways have not yet been found. This will change as bioplastics become more efficient and effective. These plastics are looking towards the future, to a time when all plastics become bioplastics and are friendly to the earth and environment, which is important to reduce the tons of waste that fill our landfills every year.
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