Bioplastics - bio-based and/or biodegradable
More than half of the plastics processed for filament production at Extrudr are bioplastics. But what exactly are bioplastics? According to European Bioplastics Organisation, they are polymers that are biobased, biodegradable or both. Basically, all bioplastics can be divided into three categories.
- from renewable raw materials, biodegradable
- from renewable raw materials, non-biodegradable
- from fossil raw materials, biodegradable
Extrudr filaments are made from bioplastics, which consist of renewable raw materials and are biodegradable. These include the materials PLA, GreenTEC, GreenTEC Pro, FLAX, WOOD and PEARL. Materials such as ASA, ABS, PETG, PCTG, XPETG and TPU are based on fossil raw materials and are not biodegradable.
Biobased plastics are made from renewable raw materials such as corn, sugar cane, potatoes, soybeans or vegetable oils. Through fermentation of biomass, either the raw materials or directly the biopolymers are produced. In the case of PLA, for example, only the monomer is obtained in the first step. Subsequently, this has to be processed into a polymer by polymerisation. Bioplastics, such as PHA and PHB, are produced by direct biosynthesis. Another possibility is the extraction and modification of naturally occurring biopolymers, such as cellulose or starch. The chemical composition and morphology of the polymers determine the properties of the bioplastics. In many cases, the property profiles of petrochemical plastics can be achieved. Thus, GreenTEC Pro is a bio-based alternative to common industrial materials made from fossil raw materials with comparable stability and heat resistance. Naturalness can also be seen in the look and pleasant feel, especially of the materials in the BIO design range - WOOD, PEARL and FLAX.
Not all plastics made from renewable materials are biodegradable. Those that are can be dissolved into their elementary components, such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and other materials, without leaving harmful residues. If the chemical structure of the plastic allows it, plastics made from fossil raw materials are also biodegradable. Conversely, there are plastics made from renewable raw materials for which the structure does not allow biodegradability.
In general, the time required for degradability is insignificant, except in the case of compostable plastics. Compostable plastics are a specific subcategory of biodegradable plastics. Standards specify the time and necessary environment that must be maintained for degradation. The specific conditions for degradation are the appropriate moisture, temperature, oxygen supply and microorganisms. For example, the DIN EN 13432 standard requires the material to decompose by at least 90 % within 90 days in an industrial composting plant.
Despite the growing importance of sustainability, conventional plastics will continue to be indispensable due to their performance. Conventional plastics can be returned to the circular economy through recycling. PETG is the pioneer in recyclability. Recycling helps to reduce dependence on finite resources and maximise the use of waste materials.