Plastics have become an indispensable ingredient to modern life. But the environmentally degradable plastics are finding innumerable opportunities and application. Physical and chemical methods of pollution control were always in the forefront because they were easy to understand, easy to control and were reproducible. Biodegradation is the real mechanism of nature of balancing the material. A better option is to modify the materials, processes and products in such a way that one can rely upon the biodegradation in nature, recalcitrance and bioaccumulation problems are overcome. We are slowly changing our philosophy and are not merely targeting for clean-up or removal of pollutant but are aiming for prevention of pollution or facilitating biodegradation.
Bio plastics are biodegradable plastics, whose components are derived from renewable raw materials. These plastics can be made from abundant agricultural/animal resources like cellulose, starch, casein collagen, soy protein polyesters and triglycerides. Large scale use of these would help in preserving non-renewable resources like petroleum, natural gas and coal and contribute little to the problems of waste management. Biodegradable Plastics degrade over a period of time when exposed to sun and air. The demand for biodegradable Plastics is ever increasing. Biodegradable products are a great alternative to plastic and styrofoam products. These products are toxic free, compostable, and easily affordable. There are many eco-friendly products, which include PLA cold cups derived from corn bioresin, completely compostable hot cups, souffle cups, plates, utensils, bowls, and take-out containers that are made from discarded sugarcane fiber etc in the market. These biodegradable products can replace plastic and Styrofoam consumption and help in minimizing the impact on environment byreducing environmental waste and promoting sustainability while providing the highest quality biodegradable products available.
The main properties of the biodegradable plastics are: Low barriers of oxygen/water vapour transfer, best suited for short shelf life products, fully compostable in commercial composting facilities and above all will not biodegrade in landfill or other environments under ambient conditions but degrade at controlled conditions, temperature or organisms.
Manufacturing processes are rapidly changing and biodegradable products are fast replacing man-made, difficult to degrade products. Partially biodegradable shopping bags are already manufactured from thin matrix of conventional polythene filled in with starch. Application areas identified in India for biodegradable plastics are agricultural mulch, surgical implants, industrial packaging, wrapping, milk sachets, foodservice, personal care, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, recreational etc.Over the past year packaging suppliers have been introducing various forms of biodegradable plastics made from a variety of plants, in the main corn, based on projections that consumers and recycling regulations will drive demand for environmentally-friendly packaging. Some companies are predicting that the market will grow by about 20 per cent a year.
In addition, a combination of pricing and retail uptake has led more and more processors to look at biodegradable products as an alternative to polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The biodegradable products include a variety of fiber-based trays, containers and clamshells for foodservice, retail-packaged meat and produce, frozen entrees and prepared foods. Approximately a dozen of inherently biodegradable plastics are now in the market, with range of properties suitable for various consumer products. Some examples are biodegradable films or other raw material (for biodegradable plastic articles). New market opportunities are emerging for the development of biodegradable and bio-based products as the next generation of sustainable, eco-friendly materials that meet ecological and economic requirements. The coming years will see a new revolution in the biodegradable products.