Bioplastics are types of plastic made from renewable material such as potatoes, wood, corn, and sugar cane (to name a few). Instead of petroleum-based materials, we use polylactic acid (PLA), which will be derived from potatoes and wood chips. Currently many PLA materials are made from cornstarch. The goal is for it to be biodegradable, compostable, and non-toxic and all natural.
Biobased, compostable and recyclable PLA polymer use 20-50 percent less fossil fuel resources than comparable petroleum based polymers.
The synthesis of PLA polymer:
- Eliminates organic solvents and other hazardous materials,
- Completely recycles product and byproduct streams, and
- Efficiently uses catalysts to reduce energy consumption and improve yield
Production of the biopolymer PLA advances the principles of green chemistry and green engineering through its reliance on renewable feedstocks, avoidance of organic solvents and toxic additives, reduced fossil resource usage and smaller carbon footprint, and its design for degradation through composting.
Potential advantages of potatoes and wood chips over corn
Producing PLA from Maine potato waste and wood chips, rather than Midwestern corn, offers further sustainability advantages:
- Avoidance of a genetically-modified organism (GMO), industrial corn
- Recovery of waste biomass as a renewable feedstock, rather than a food crop
- Minimal chemical inputs and certification available for forest byproducts