Origin of bioplastic

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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 various categories of origins of bioplastic

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1st generation (food)

1ere génération

Vegetable oils: soybean, palm, sunflower, colza, etc.

Starch: corn, wheat, potato, tapioca, etc.

Glucose: sugar cane, beetroot, etc.

2nd generation (non-food)

Nature et Bioplastique

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 (non-food; soil-less farming)

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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).

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).
biobased plastics

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.


Based on the tests carried out as per the above-mentioned standards, it is possible to obtain certificates that provide increased visibility for the materials and products thus labelled.

As of today, there are two main European organisations that issue these certifications: