Bio-based plastics

Bio-based plastics are plastics made in whole or partially from biological resources.

More Information on bio-based plastics

  • History

    The first known bio-based plastic, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), was discovered in 1926 by a French researcher, Maurice Lemoigne, from his work with the bacterium Bacillus megaterium. The significance of Lemoigne’s discovery was overlooked for many decades, in large part because, at the time, petroleum was inexpensive and abundant. 

    The petroleum crisis of the mid-1970s brought renewed interest in finding alternatives to petroleum-based products.

    The rise of molecular genetics and recombinant DNA technology after that time further spurred research, so that by the beginning of the 21st century the structures, methods of production, and applications for numerous types of bio-based plastics had become established.

    Bio-based plastics that were either in use or under study included PHB and polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), both of which are synthesized within specialized microbes, as well as polylactic acid (PLA), which is polymerized from lactic acid monomers produced by microbial fermentation of plant-derived sugars and starches.

    Bio-based plastics currently make up an insignificant portion of total world production of plastics. Commercial manufacturing processes are expensive. However, improvements in metabolic and genetic engineering have produced strains of microbes and plants that may significantly improve yields and production capabilities while reducing overall costs. These factors, when added to increasing oil prices and growing environmental awareness, may expand the market for bio-based plastics in the future.

  • Properties

  • Applications

  • Processes

  • Recycling

  • Q&As

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Did you know ?
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