Plastic from Plants? Is it possible?
Imagine a banana peel turning into a water bottle! Or a bowl of rice water turning into a plastic bag! Sounds like a crazy idea, doesn’t it? But what if we tell you that it’s actually possible?
Yes! These are the lesser-known alternative methods of making plastic, which have the same use and are easy to make. And the best part is that they are biodegradable!
Want to know more?
Let’s understand what bioplastics are, how they differ from regular plastic, and what their advantages are.
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What are bioplastics?
Bioplastics are plastic materials that are produced from renewable sources. These sources can be vegetable oils and fats, corn and rice starch, food waste, straw, woodchips, plants, sawdust, etc.
Bioplastics are a suitable replacement for conventional plastic which is made of non-renewable sources like petroleum and natural gas. They can be made from agricultural by-products or from used plastic items using microorganisms.
While most bioplastics are biodegradable, not all of them are readily biodegradable or compostable. Some may even be slightly toxic because of the other chemicals used during its manufacturing. Hence, they are often categorised under the following terms.
Bio-based Plastic: They are made wholly or partially from renewable resources instead of using non-renewable petroleum-based resources. Some of the commonly used resources are potato, corn, rice, soy, sugarcane, banana peels, vegetable oil, wheat, etc. For instance, corn starch can be processed to produce a Polylactic Acid (PLA). PLA has similar properties to Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethylene (PET) and looks just like normal plastic. These days, bio-based plastics are used in a range of products like cups, tea bags, diapers, food packaging and more.
Biodegradable Plastic: Biodegradable plastics refers to petroleum-based plastics that are combined with an additive to help them break down quickly. They are commonly produced from renewable raw materials (like sugarcane, cellulose, and corn), microorganisms, petrochemicals or a combination of all three. Hence, they have similar properties like traditional petrochemical plastics but produce less carbon dioxide when they decompose.
Compostable Plastic: This kind of plastic is biodegradable through composting. The big difference between biodegradable and compostable plastic is that when compostable plastics decompose, they leave no toxic residue. Hence, some of this plastic can be easily composted in home gardens. Most of the raw materials used in such plastic are from renewable sources like starch from corn, tapioca, potato, cellulose, soy protein, and lactic acid.
Now that you have learned the basics of bioplastics, let’s understand the advantages of using bioplastics over regular plastics:
Where can we use bioplastics?
Since bioplastics have so many advantages over conventional plastic, one important question arises here, where can we use it?
Almost everywhere! It is a good substitute for normal plastic in our everyday life.
Did you know that every year, almost 300 million tons of plastic are produced around the world? Of this, 50% is used only once and thrown away! Another shocking fact is that 95% of the trash floating on the surface of the oceans is just plastic. All of these can be solved by replacing normal plastic with bioplastics.
Today, bioplastic has made its way into almost all the industries – automobiles, agriculture, textile, healthcare, food and beverage packaging, and more. For instance, the food and beverage packaging industry is trying its best to replace all their plastic disposable cutlery and plates with biodegradable plastics. So next time you are hosting a party, ensure to buy biodegradable cutleries and plates.
Say NO to plastic and switch to Bioplastics
Estimates suggest that our planet has about 53 years of crude oil left for all kinds of production. We all have to find a better solution soon to have a sustainable and green life.
What steps are you taking towards creating a better world? Tell us in the comments below.
Liked this story? Read more facts about plants here:
Books are Tanaya Goswami’s first love and cheesecakes come a close second. Talking about movies, music, calligraphy, politics, and Elon Musk will get you listed under the friends’ section of her diary. Ever since moving on from her job as an English lecturer, she spends her time at BYJU’S crafting stories filled with emotion and sprinkled with sarcasm. Outside of work, she’s either learning something new (French, most recently!) or is curled up with a book and a cup of coffee. She firmly believes that discovering what you don’t know is the key to knowledge and is constantly working towards improving herself.
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