Plastics products are often thought of as a huge contributor to litter. The Ocean Conservancy keeps track of International Coastal Cleanup. More than 500,000 volunteers picked up picked up 10.1 million pounds of trash along 17,719 miles of coastline last year alone. This amount is the third highest in the 27-year history of the Coastal Cleanup. While many would assume that plastic products take the cake for the types of trash that are found, in reality cigarette butts and filters are No. 1 of the top 10 items found. Second are food wrappers/containers, then plastic beverage bottles and plastic bags.
A lot of interest in PLA and other bioplastics has faded in the last year or so. The concept received a lot of coverage in recent years as environmental concerns have continued to mount. But if you keep up on it, you’ll notice that the talk has all but stopped. But why? In theory, bioplastics are great but it’s quite evident that the technology isn’t there to allow them to complete with their other plastic counterparts. Cost, durability, and sensitivity to extreme heat are the glaring issues.
With that said, NatureWorks and BioAmber have teamed up to start a joint venture called AmberWorks. The goal? To develop new compounds that will expand the property range of bioplastics.
The companies are targeting biodegradable food service products such as injection molded cutlery and thermoformed cups, lids and clamshell containers. Samples have been developed already for thermoforming and injection moulding and the material is approved for food contact by the FDA. The new materials expand NatureWork’s Ingeo properties in terms of flexibility, toughness and heat resistance.
No word on the timing of when it will officially come to market. Conventional wisdom says that eventually the technology will be developed so that bioplastic can conceivably become a competitive plastic product in the thermoforming industry. It’s now just a question of how long.