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Plastic, what are the alternatives?

Plastic is ubiquitous in our lives. If it has advantages by its characteristics (flexible, resistant, transparent), it also has many disadvantages, especially in terms of its end of life: for example, it takes 1000 years for a plastic bag to degrade…

The 7th continent is no secret to anyone: 1.6 million square kilometers and nearly 80,000 tons of plastic float on the Pacific!

Following this huge plastic pollution and its dramatic consequences for wildlife and human health, it has become urgent to manage its end of life and find less harmful alternatives. Also driven by the ban on single-use plastic (AGEC 2020 law), manufacturers are working on solutions to recycle it or are turning to alternatives: bioplastics.

1. Recycled plastic

Within recycling plants, various processes are used to transform waste into raw material (grinding, micronization, regeneration of plastics). This recycled raw material will be resold to plastics manufacturers in the form of flakes, powder or granules and thus re-used to give life to new objects.

Note that since plastic is not infinitely recyclable, we must reduce the use of plastics to generate less waste.

Below is our selection of French suppliers offering recycled plastic in raw form:

2. Bio-plastics

Bioplastic is a biobased and/or biodegradable material. There are two main families:

  • Plastics from fossil and biodegradable resources: PBAT/PCL
  • Biobased plastics (from renewable resources)

a) Focus on biobased plastics: plants to replace oil.

Plants such as starch or cellulose have an advantage: they contain carbon polymer as in oil. They can therefore be used to make bioplastics: this is called green chemistry.

Today, the starch used as the raw material for bioplastics comes mostly from corn, wheat, potatoes and tapioca. Thermoplastic starch is the most frequently used bioplastic. Cellulose is also used, which is extracted from wood or vegetable waste.

The production and use of bioplastics are considered a sustainable activity if they come from vegetable and biodegradable materials (alternatives to fossil fuels and reduction of the greenhouse effect). Discover our selection of sustainable bioplastics suppliers:

b) The advantages of bio-plastics and their impact on the environment

Bioplastics can be interesting to diversify raw materials, limit dependence on oil (by using renewable materials) and allow natural “recycling” (if biodegradable). For an equal weight of plastic, bioplastics emit 30 to 75% less C02 than those made from petroleum

However, some bioplastics also have disadvantages for the environment. The cultivation of plants used as raw materials for bioplastics is not always respectful of the environment, and has harmful consequences on the air, water and soil: intensive watering, soil fertilization, treatment with pesticides. In addition, the raw materials used are no longer available for human or animal consumption.

Third-generation bioplastics, which are plastics produced from unused natural materials or from green waste, are an alternative. For example: seaweed, which is easy to cultivate and grows quickly.

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