Bioplastic bags are for sure the most visible and known application made with these biobased and biodegradable materials.
It’s difficult today to not see them: market stands, small businesses, supermarkets, they are everywhere. Their use received recently a boost from the industrials due to increase of the regulation and the obligation for the sector to comply with the new legislation in numerous cases.
Since July 1st 2016, the French government has banned the distribution (free of charge or against payment) of disposable plastic bags with a thickness less than 50 µm, no mater the material used for its fabrication. This restriction applies to all plastic bags even the one made from biodegradable and compostable materials.
From January 1st 2017, this restriction affects also the single-use bags use to pack at the point of sale, notably at the fruits and vegetables supermarket stands, unless there are home compostable and are partly bio based.
The bioplastic bags made available have to fulfill some specific requirements on their ability to be biodegradable in a home compost once they are used and have to be tested according to the standard NF T 51 800:2015 (or equivalent). Likewise, the percentage of biomass contents in these bags have to be attested (by the norm ASTM D6866 for example) and will be evolving over time. The bio based carbon ratio has to be at least 40% January 1st 2018 and will then increase to 50% in 2020 and finally 60% in 2025.
The bioplastics which meet these criteria are today often a mix of biodegradable copolyesters (not always fully biobased) with natural filler like starch or flour that give them a specific aspect, touch and smell. Others possibilities exist allowing to broaden the solutions from a property and transparency perspectives while keeping their processing ability on the currents industrial equipment.
In order to promote the use of these versions presenting a great interest for waste and environment management, the production, distribution, sale or availability of bags (and by extension packaging) made from oxo-degradable materials are from now on forbidden.
In other cases (bags with a thickness superior at 50 µm), the reusable aspect has to be put forward for its promotion and to avoid that they are throw away in the nature.
Although they are far from predominant on the plastic market, bioplastics can be in some cases, the only material allowed to be used by the current legislations. They determine more and more the materials choice for these sensible applications.