What is Sugarcane Bioplastic?

What is Sugarcane Bioplastic?

First of all, what is a bioplastic? Bio plastics are plastics that have not been made from substances such as petroleum, which plastics are usually made out of; they are made out of sustainable, biomass materials, such as sugarcane. Therefore, they use less finite resources like fossil fuels than traditional plastics, whilst still being recyclable.

How are Sugarcane Bioplastics made?

Putting it simply:

  1. Sugarcane is grown specifically for use in bioplastics, and then goes through a ethanol fermentation process to become bioethanol.
  2. This ethanol is used to create a bio-based polymer such as PET  or a PE polymer. Currently, 30% of biopolymer PET made from sugarcane is sustainable, whereas the remaining 70% has a more complicated chemical structure. A polymer known as PEF is the future of sugarcane bioplastic, as this will be fully sustainable.
  3. This polymer is then used in the plastic packaging production process where a polymer extracted from fossil fuels, such as PET, would normally be used.

What are the advantages of Sugarcane Bioplastic?

Sugarcane naturally absorbs CO2 when it grows, and doesn't release it when it is harvested, which means that if the product that is made out sugarcane plastic is recycled, then this trapped CO2 will never be released back into the atmosphere, helping to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases being released.

However, the name "Bioplastic" can be deceiving. Products made from sugarcane bioplastics are not biodegradable. This isn't really a bad thing, because if sugarcane did biodegrade or was burnt, then the CO2 that was trapped during the sugarcane's growth would all be released, significantly increasing the carbon footprint of the product.

Sugarcane bioplastic is also fully recyclable, just like a traditional plastic, which isn't true of many other Bio-composites and PLAs. This is a major advantage, as the current recycling infrastructures do not need to be altered in any way to accomodate Sugarcane bioplastic being used in our everyday lives.

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