Origin of bioplastic

Origin of bioplastic

In the majority of cases, bioplastics today are obtained from biomass, they are therefore called biobased (as per the standard EN 16575: 2004. Certain biodegradable polymers are still obtained from fossil fuels, but only a few (PBAT and PCL primarily). The biomass used for manufacturing biobased polymers is predominantly renewable and sourced from different activities like agriculture or the agro-food industry. In the various steps of processing the biomass, bacterial fermentation of sugars from various origins is the key point. It is through these procedures that the building block molecules for green chemistry are obtained, which can be used as monomers for producing biobased polymers.


The different categories of BIOMASS

at the origin of biobased plastics


1st generation

Vegetable oils : soybean, palm, sunflower, colza, etc.
Starch : corn, wheat, potato, tapioca, etc.
Glucose : sugar cane, beetroot, etc.


2nd generation

Lignocellulosic biomass: wood, by-products or waste material from agriculture or wood (bagasse from sugarcane, straw, etc.)

Non-food vegetable oils : castor beans and wastes from other vegetable oils production


3rd generation
soil-less farming)

Sugars or oils produced by micro-organisms : Micro-algae, bacteria, mushrooms, yeasts, etc.

Municipal waste material : organic waste, waste water, etc.

Today, the main resources are from cereal resources (cornstarch or hydrolysed wheat) or directly obtained from the sugar industry (sugarcane, beetroot, molasses). or from vegetal oil such as castor oil. 

Environmental impact of the use of biomass for the production of biobased plastics:

Today, biobased polymers are manufactured mostly using renewable resources which can compete with other applications, and particularly human or animal food. Yet, this share of bioplastic manufacturing remains marginal (approximately 0.02% of the global agricultural land).
Origine des bioplastiques

Standards and certifications of biobased plastics

Today, there are two important standards that allow for measuring the content of renewable resources in a polymer:

ASTM D6866 / ISO 16620-2

Through radiocarbon dating, it is possible to determine the content of carbons obtained from renewable resources in a material, compared to the carbons obtained from fossil fuels. The content of carbon 14 of an element sourced from biomass is very characteristic compared to a petroleum-based compound which contains less or no carbon 14. Measuring the proportion of biobased carbon is therefore easy.

EN 16785-1

This standard allows for determining the biobased content through a radiocarbon and elementary analysis. Here, it is possible to obtain a more detailed measurement since this standard also takes into account atoms of oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen in addition to those of carbon.


On the basis of tests carried out according to the standards mentioned above, it is possible to obtain commercial labels allowing appropriate communication.