(338b) Bioproducts and Sustainability: How Viable Are Bioplastics and Biobased Materials in the New BioEconomy?

Mohanty, A. K., University of Guelph
Misra, M., University of Guelph

The sky rocketing price of petroleum along with its dwindling nature coupled with climate change concern and continued population growth have drawn the urgency for the plastic industries in adapting towards sustainability. The government’s push for green products, consumers’ desire and energy conservation are some of the key factors that drive research towards the development of renewable resource-based polymeric biomaterials. The use of bio- or renewable carbon unlike petro-carbon for manufacturing bioplastics and biobased materials is moving forward for a reduced carbon footprint. The goal is to use biobased materials containing the maximum possible amount of renewable biomass-based derivatives to have a sustainable future.

Biobased or green economy is challenging to agriculture, forestry, academia, government and industry. The incorporation of bio-resources, e.g. crop-derived green plastics and plant derived natural fibres into composite materials are gaining prime importance in designing and engineering green composites. Biocomposites derived from natural fibers and traditional polymers like polypropylene, polyethylene, epoxy and polyesters have been developed for automotive parts and building structures. Renewable resource based bioplastics like polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), biobased polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT), bio-polyolefin, bio-polyamide, cellulosic plastics, soy protein based bioplastics and vegetable oils derived bioresins need value-added and diverse applications to compete with the fossil fuel derived plastics. Through reactive blends, composites and nanocomposites new biobased materials are under constant development.

Natural fibres are lighter, less expensive, have superior specific strength, require comparatively less energy to produce, are good for the environment, biodegradable and have superior sound abatement characteristics as compared to synthetic glass fibres. Hybrid and intelligently engineered green composites are going to be the major drivers for sustainable developments of new industrial bioproducts. Besides agricultural natural fibers like kenaf, jute, flax, industrial hemp, and sisal; inexpensive biomasses such as wheat straw, rice stalks, corn stovers, grasses, soy stalks and lignin have great potential for use in sustainable biobased materials.

This presentation will highlight the current status, opportunities and challenges of bioplastics and biobased materials for uses in car parts, consumer goods and sustainable packaging.

Acknowledgements: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)-New Directions Research Programs; University of Guelph-OMAFRA (Bioeconomy for Industrial Uses); Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)-Discovery Grant; and AUTO21.