Can biodegradable plastics currently promoted in China solve problem of single-use plastic waste? Can degradable plastics really replace traditional plastics? We all have doubts in our hearts. Back in 2008, my country issued a "Plastic Restriction Order", which stated that all supermarkets, bazaars and other places in my country implement a system of paid use of plastic shopping bags, and it is not allowed to provide plastic shopping bags. for free; The recently released Opinion on Further Strengthening Plastic Pollution Control by National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Ecology and Environment clarifies schedule for controlling "white pollution" and scope of restrictions and prohibitions. Many provinces (cities) have issued an updated version of "Plastic Restriction Order" and formulated a detailed range and duration of restriction. Once this order comes in, will biodegradable plastic open up new opportunities for development?
1. Clarify concept of "degradable plastic"
Plastic can be divided into two types based on whether it is biodegradable: biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Let me explain to you what degradable plastic is, as shown in fig. 1-1.
Figure 1-1 Plastic material analysis diagram
The so-called environmentally friendly degradable plastics that we usually talk about are usually referred to as "biodegradable plastics". In fact, biodegradable plastics are divided into bio- and fossils. Although sources of raw materials are different, they are all degradable, so concept of degradable plastics should not be misunderstood.
1.1 Bio-based degradable plastic
Biodegradable plastics can be divided into biodegradable plastics obtained by molding or mixing natural substances, biodegradable plastics synthesized by microbial fermentation, and biodegradable plastics synthesized by chemical synthesis of natural substances.
Shaping or blending natural materials to produce biodegradable plastics. A type of plastic that is mixed with natural polymeric materials such as plant fibers, starch, lignin, and cellulose using a specific molding process.
Biodegradable plastics synthesized by microbial fermentation: they are directly fermented from starch by microorganisms. Currently, these are mainly polyhydroxyalkanoate polymers (PHA), including PHB, PHBV, etc.
Chemical synthesis of natural products Biodegradable plastics: use of plant resources as raw materials, fermentation of monomers (lactic acid, etc.) that are produced by chemical synthesis (direct polymerization or ring-opening polymerization), including polylactic acid (PLA) .
1.2 Fossil based biodegradable plastic
Fossil-based degradable plastics are degradable plastics that are synthesized from monomers using petroleum resources as raw materials. Including aliphatic polyesters such as polybutylene succinate (PBS), polybutylene succinate adipate (PBSA), etc.; aliphatic-aromatic polyester copolymers such as terephthalate-butylene glycol formate (PBAT), etc.
Second, why can biodegradable plastic open up new opportunities for development?
2.1 Global Biodegradable Plastics Market Size Analysis
With support of relevant enterprises and promulgation of relevant policies by governments in Europe and Asia, market for biodegradable plastics will continue to grow. From latest market data from European Association for Bioplastics in fig. 2-1 also shows that global production of bioplastics is increasing year by year.
Fig. 2-1. Forecast of global bioplastic production from 2017 to 2023
 He Xiaonan. Analysis of state of development of degradable plastics [J]. High technologies and industrialization, 2020 (02): 56–62.
2.2 Increasing investment in research and development institutions
Based on search terms: (subject=degradable plastics or title=degradable plastics or title=Chinese and English extension (degradable plastics, bilingual Chinese and English)) (fuzzy match); database: search through literary databases. The total number of documents received has reached one thousand, as shown in Figure 2-2, which shows that Chinese R&D personnel are also actively investing in development of biodegradable plastics.
Figure 2-2. Literature Distribution Map
To solve problem of "white pollution", there is a long way to go. Biodegradable plastics can degrade into harmless substances in natural environment and also reduce people's dependence on oil. We can say that market prospects are very broad. In this article, we will look at biodegradable plastics from a broad perspective. Next, we will go into detail about biodegradable plastics such as PLA, PBS and PBAT, so stay tuned!
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