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Biodegradable/Bio-plastics: Myths and Realities

Abstract

The plastics industry is proliferating continuously and the global plastics production in 2018 has reached around 360 million tones. This has further compounded the problem of waste plastics, which if not appropriately disposed cause serious environmental problems like land pollution, marine pollution and water source pollution. As an alternative, there has been a paradigm shift from substituting synthetic plastics i.e. fossil-based to bioplastics. However, the world of bioplastics is riddled with many problems as the current terminology used around such bioplastics is confusing and general public is not provided with reliable information about the true biodegradability/compostability of the products. As a result, "greenwashing" is on the rise, with brands even making spurious claims about the environmental benefits of their products. This review article scans the world of biodegradable/bioplastics, major players and production capacities, their current status with respect to production and application. The commercial biopolymers available in the market and their technology have been also discussed in detail. The article also reviews various technologies like enzyme-based technology and oxo-degradable technology being propagated as a tool to convert conventional plastics like PE/PP/PET etc. to a biodegradable plastic. Further, various issues with oxo-based technology and enzyme-based technology have been compiled. Besides, various standards, test methods (ASTM/ISO) related to testing, specifications of biodegradable plastics, their scope/limitations and potential misuse have been covered. Further, the review article discusses the limitation of the various standards and why changes in the standards are required. The article tries to focus on various myths & realities of biodegradable/bioplastics and the challenges and expectations of the real world.

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Correspondence to Gurpreet S. Kapur.

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Goel, V., Luthra, P., Kapur, G.S. et al. Biodegradable/Bio-plastics: Myths and Realities. J Polym Environ 29, 3079–3104 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10924-021-02099-1

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Keywords

  • Bioplastics
  • Biodegradation
  • Compostable
  • Standards