Companies Producing Biopolymers for Packaging
Huge amounts of plastics are produced every year. The production of plastics is a major contributor to environmental pollution. Not only are they polluting the land areas, but also the oceans with devastating effects on marine life. But there are alternative ways to produce plastics. Biopolymers are one of them. Biopolymers are natural polymers. They are biodegradable and can be used as a replacement for plastics. In this article, I want to highlight some companies that produce biopolymers for packaging.
Biopolymers are natural polymers produced by the cells of living organisms. There are three types of biopolymers: polynucleotides, polypeptides, and polysaccharides.
Polynucleotides are polymers of nucleotides, which are the monomers for example of DNA and RNA. Polypeptides are shorter polymers of amino acids like collagen, actin and fibrin. Polysaccharides are chains of sugar carbohydrates like starch, cellulose and alginate.
The polysaccharides are preferred for usage in packaging because they are biodegradable and can be produced from renewable resources.
Biopolymers for Packaging
The most common biopolymers for packaging are polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), polylactic acid (PLA), and polyglycolic acid (PGA). However, the barrier properties of these biopolymers are not as good as those of conventional plastics. Hydrophilic polymers are not water-resistant and allow water to get through. Therefore, polyglycolic acid (PGA) is now being used more and more because it is a biopolymer that has great barrier characteristics.
These biopolymers are produced from biomass, like this:
Starch (corn, cassava, sugar beet) > (fermentation) > Lactic acid > Polylactic acid (PLA)
Sugar beet > Glyconic acid > Polyglyconic acid (PGA)
PLA, for example, can be recycled after use, safely incinerated because it contains no heavy metals or chlorine, or industrially composted.
These companies all work in the field of biopolymers:
NatureWorks is a company jointly owned by Cargill and Thailand's PTT Global Chemical that produces PLA. They create PLA from plants like corn, cassava or sugar cane. The PLA is used in packaging, 3D printing filament or in the medical field.
Futerro is a company based in Belgium that was one of the first to produce PLA. They have an annual capacity of 100,000 tons of PLA. Their PLA is used in areas like packaging, plastic bags, and clothing.
TotalEnergies Corbion is a joint venture between TotalEnergies and Corbion. They produce about 75,000 tons of PLA per year. They are headquartered in the Netherlands and have a production facility in Thailand.
FKUR, based in Germany produces PLA biopolymers and often mixes it with conventional polymers.
Tecnaro have different biopolymers in their portfolio. For example they use Bio-PET, PLA and Bio-PE. They are based in Germany.
CruzFoam from California also produces biodegradable packaging materials.
Biopolymers are a great alternative to conventional plastics. They are biodegradable and can be produced from renewable resources. Therefore, it would be great if biopolymers were used more often in packaging and conventional polymers phased out.
But there still is much research to be done to make biopolymers as good as conventional plastics.
- Wikipedia Biopolymers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biopolymer
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