Benefit of renewable resources and biodegradation
The primary benefit and advantage in using bioplastics is their capability to improve the environmental impact of a product.
- Reduction of greenhouse gas emission
- Saving fossil fuels
- Possibility of using a local resource
- Reclamation of by-products
Generally, bioplastics contribute towards improving the environmental impact of products in two ways:
The environmental impact of polymers (or other products) is measured and analysed within the context of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This decision-making support tool allows listing, quantifying, and assessing the environmental impacts for all the steps of a production's life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to its end-of-life.
The ISO 14040 series of standards (external link ISO 14040) lists the best practices of execution of an LCA and thus ensures the reliability of the results.
Using vegetable sourced bioplastics as a replacement for fossil sourced polymers often allows for a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of the products depending on the applications. Generally, these assessments show the good performance levels of biobased polymers in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel savings.
These aspects can still be improved compared to the current situation. The biomass used until now has been primarily in competition with food applications and is often obtained through dedicated crops.
In certain cases, by-products like molasses, obtained from sugarcane, are already processed for producing biobased polymers (in this case, biobased PET).
These developments need to be implemented on an industrial scale within the coming years, while maintaining the objective of prioritising reclamation of biomass in keeping with an approach of eco-design and circular economy.