Benchmarking Bioplastics: A Natural Step Towards a Sustainable Future

Abstract

The ubiquitous presence of plastic litter and its tending fate as marine debris have given rise to a strong anti-waste global movement which implicitly endorses bioplastics as a promising substitute. With ‘corporate social responsibility’ growing ever more popular as a business promotional tool, companies and businesses are continually making claims about their products being “green”, “environmentally friendly”, “biodegradable”, or “100% compostable”. Imprudent use of these words creates a false sense of assurance at the consumer end about them being responsible towards the environment by choosing these products. The policies surrounding bioplastics regulation are neither stringent not enforceable at both national and international stage which indirectly allow these “safe words” to be used as an easy plug to validate the supposed corporate social responsibility. Similar to conventional plastics, unregulated and mismanaged bioplastics could potentially create another environmental mayhem. Therefore, it is a crucial time to harness the power of law to set applicable standards with a high threshold for the classification of “bioplastics”, which companies can aspire to, and customers can trust. In this review, we analyse the multifarious international bioplastics standards, critically assess the potential shortcomings and highlight how the intersection of law with science and technology is crucial towards the reform of bioplastics regulation.

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Abbreviations

AS:

Australian Standard

ASTM:

American Society for Testing and Materials

CEN:

European Committee for Standardization

DIN:

Deutsches Institut für Normung OR German Institute for standardization

JBPA:

Japan BioPlastics Association

OECD:

Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development

PLA:

Poly(lactic acid)

PHAs:

Polyhydroxyalkanoates

PHB:

Polyhydroxybutyrate

PHBV:

Poly(hydroxybutyrate-co-hydroxyvalerate)

PCL:

Polycaprolactone

PBAT:

Poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate)

PBS:

Poly(butylene succinate)

PE:

Polyethylene

PP:

Polypropylene

PET:

Polyethylene terephthalate

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Acknowledgments

We would like to acknowledge The University of Newcastle for providing access to research and library facilities. SGTV is grateful to the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) for the Blue Charter Fellowship—2019–2020.

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Correspondence to Thava Palanisami.

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Bhagwat, G., Gray, K., Wilson, S.P. et al. Benchmarking Bioplastics: A Natural Step Towards a Sustainable Future. J Polym Environ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10924-020-01830-8

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Keywords

  • Bioplastics
  • Bio-based plastics
  • Bioplastic policies
  • Plastic pollution
  • Bioplastic standards
  • Biodegradable
  • Global policies