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This report presents an overview of facts and figures regarding bio-based and biodegradable plastics, in particular for packaging applications. Often, the term bioplastic is used by the public. However, the term ‘bioplastic’ refers to either the bio-based origin of a plastic or the biodegradable character of a plastic. These two aspects of a plastic are not synonymous, and therefore the term ‘bioplastic’ is confusing. In this report a clear distinction is made between bio-based and biodegradable plastics.
Appearance and recognition
Just like fossil based plastics, bio-based and/or biodegradable plastics are available in many grades with a wide variety of properties. The suitability of bio-based and/or biodegradable plastics for particular applications depends on these properties. Also the most suitable end-of-life option depends on its properties. However, bio-based plastic products often have a very similar appearance compared to conventional fossil-based plastic products. As a consequence, they cannot be easily distinguished by consumers. The same is valid for biodegradable versus nonbiodegradable products. Logo’s and labels can be used to make clear to the consumer (and retailer) whether a plastic is bio-based and/or compostable, and how to dispose of the plastic after use. Some qualifications like ‘biodegradable’ are not unambiguously defined. Consequently, logo’s and labels will need to be linked to a normalisation and certification system. Moreover, even when a plastic is biodegradable, this does by no means imply that the material degrades in the environment in a short period of time.
- Biobased&biodegradable plastics
Focus on food packaging in the Netherlands. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, institute within the legal entity Stichting Wageningen Research