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Bioplastics: The difference between Plant-based Lactide and bio-PET.
Bio-plastics can often be categorized into bio-based or biodegradable polymers. A bio-based polymer has its origins in plant-based feedstocks, such as sugarcane, corn, potatoes, beets, etc.
Biodegradable or compostable plastics are the only polymers that are able to disappear relatively quickly in an environment compared to fossil fuel based standard plastics, like PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate). This particular plastic can take more than 400 hundred years to decompose and scientifically has demonstrated that it can release a toxin into the environment known as leachate.
Plant-based lactide is a very unique substance as it performs very similar to plastic, is naturally transparent and can also hold a large variety of liquids and dry goods. It boasts an impressive shelf-life too. The very unique feature of lactide is its ability to rapidly decompose after your usage of the product in a particular environment. This offers customers the “best of both worlds”. Having a shelf-life that is as long as you need for your product’s application and then the ability to rapidly decompose after usage puts this material in a class of its own. The best results have been found through composting. In South Africa, the companies that are Y-Waste and Reliance tested the Fortis X bottles after usage at their facilities, with the latter having 100% biodegradation in less than 30 days. There was not a trace of the material after 25 days.
What’s more, is that lactide is entirely made from plants. Sugarcane is harvested and fermented. This is then dehydrated and polymerized into the resin which can be moulded for bottle and packaging applications. Corn, potatoes and beets also have the high glucose content for the process. Once the material decomposes, it becomes lactic acid which is a valuable soil supplement.
This biopolymer is not biodegradable, but it has a bio-based element. Standard PET has mono ethylene glycol made from petroleum (fossil fuel). In the case of Bio-PET, the mono ethylene glycol is made entirely from plants- again usually sugarcane.
The chemical formula of Bio-PET is identical to that of standard PET. It has been chemically processed to be the same. The advantage being that it can be recycled with PET after it has been separated from all other types of plastic.
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Bio-based PET should not be confused with PET containing bio or oxo-degradable additives. These additives were banned by the EU after they did not work and the scientific community at European Bioplastics in Berlin takes a firm stance against these as 100% biodegradation has not been proven.