According to the Earth Day Foundation, nearly 8 million metric tons of non-biodegradable plastic finds their way into the Earth’s oceans each year. Thereby sinking to depths of as many as 11 km deep. By 2050, Earth Day estimates that there will be more plastic in the ocean, by weight, than there are fish.
Why Can’t We Eliminate Plastics?
So plastics are used in everything. That’s from packaging to manufacturing. As well as in clothing and more.
A large amount of plastic films can be found in food service and grocery stores. These are contaminant-resistant, damage-protectant plastics. All to keep the food we eat from spoiling. Finally and not becoming contaminated by bacteria, molds and viruses and pathogens.
While plastics are convenient, they also can be harmful to the environment. Historically, researchers have struggled to find a feasible alternative. Most substitutes are heavier, less effective and or produce more waste. Consequently they also require more energy to produce.
Recently, a new class of plastics called bioplastics have emerged. Ones as an excellent potential alternative to synthetic plastics. Constructed from natural materials and renewable resources abundant in nature. For they are called that bioplastics have properties similar to synthetic plastics. They are also much more environmentally friendly!
Produced chiefly from agricultural byproducts. Because these bioplastics make use of materials that would otherwise be thrown out. Sources of bioplastics include soybean flours and potato water. Also legume waste from farms that produce peas. Finally beans, lentils, soy flour, and potatoes. However, these materials must undergo a number of processes. All in order to become bioplastics.
The Protein Science Behind Bioplastics
In order to create bioplastics, scientists must first isolate soy protein concentrates. So that’s using potato protein concentrates. Also legume residues from the rest of the waste. All produced during agricultural operations.
These protein extracts are bound by powerful protein binding forces. All which form a chain of proteins and unsuitable for plastic production. Scientists must also add a plasticizing agent. One to improve the formability. I mean of the protein chains.
The methods of casting and hot-pressing involve the creation of plastics using heat to effectively change the structure of the protein chains. This protein denaturation also adds to the plastic-like properties of the protein. Thereby allowing it to be formed and molded. The protein denaturation temperature varies among proteins. It also must be carefully monitored.
More research is necessary before bioplastics can see a wide release. Especially and also in the United States. In particular, researchers must determine to what extent bioplastics can resist moisture. As well as stand up to strength tests.
In addition, further formulation research is necessary. All to ensure bioplastics can continue to be produced inexpensively. That’s now an issue. Now we are talking economics. By being enough to compete with synthetic plastics.
In conclusion and if successful, the introduction of a biologically plastic is coming. I mean based on biodegradable plastic material. For we all know, it would be revolutionary. Instead of languishing in oceans and landfills around the world. Now bioplastics would eventually break down and disintegrate over time. As a result posing a much-reduced risk to humans and wildlife.