The action of microorganisms

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IT is a process when something breaks down into more simple compounds due to the action of microorganisms (like bacteria, fungi, or algae) on them.

When we say that something "biodegrades", it has to meet the following requirements:

  1. it has to break down (called "degradation")
  2. it's molecules have to break down from complex molecules into simpler one (called "chemical degradation")
  3. the breaking down of its molecules has to be done by microorganisms.

Types of Biodegradation

Requirement of biodegradation are microorganisms is to perform some material, usually the material has to be broken up into smaller molecules first.

Hydro-biodegradable

These materials are first broken down by interaction with water (a process called hydrolysis), and then are further broken down by microorganisms in further smaller compounds.

Photo-biodegradable

Photo-biodegradable

materials are first broken when they come in contact with sunlight (a process called photolysis), and then are further broken down by microorganisms.

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Green plastics

From GreenPlastics

Green Plastics,are also called Bioplastics.these are the are plastics that are biodegradable and are usually made mostly or entirely from renewable resources. Frequently there is also a focus on environmentally friendly processing. Green plastics are the focus of an emerging industry focused on making convenient living consistent with environmental stability.

Like all plastics, bioplastics are composed of a polymer, combined with plasticizers and additives, and processed using extrusion or thermosetting. What makes green plastics "green" is one or more of the following properties:

  1. they are biodegradable
  2. they are made from renewable ingredients
  3. they have environmentally friendly processing

Because different compounds can satisfy some or all of these criteria to different degrees, there are different "degrees of green" in green plastics. To evaluate how "green" a plastic material is, you need to ask three questions:

  1. how quickly can the plastic be re-integrated into the environment after it is no longer being used?
  2. how quickly are the ingredients that go into making the plastic created in the environment?
  3. how much pollution or waste is created during the process of actually making the plastic?

Traditional plastics fail on all three of these points.

Contents

[hide]

  • 1 Biodegradability (What happens to them?)
  • 2 Renewability (What are they made of?)
  • 3 Processing (How are they made?)
  • 4 History of Bioplastics
    • 4.1 Early History
    • 4.2 The 1800's
    • 4.3 The 1900's
    • 4.4 The 1920's
    • 4.5 The 1960's
    • 4.6 The 2000's and Beyond
  • 5 Reading Material
  • 6 References

For bioplastics to become practical, they must have properties that allow them to compete with the current plastics on the market: bioplastics must be able to be strong, resiliant, flexible, elastic, and above all, durable. It is the very durability of traditional plastics that has helped them in the marketplace, and has been a major goal of plastics research throughout the years. However, it is exactly this durability that now has people increasingly worried. Now that we wrap our sandwiches in bags that will still be around when the sandwich, and even the person who ate it, are long gone, many people are wondering: have we gone too far?

There is a lot of current research going on concerning methods of decomposition. There is also research on controlling the time-line of biodegradation. One goal of this research is to make a product that is programmed-degradable: in other words, a product that allows you to control when and how it degrades, while insuring that the product remains strong while it is still in use.

The use of natural polymers is not entirely a new idea. In one form or another, green plastics have been around for a long time.

Early History

Natural resins-like amber, shellac, and gutta percha-have been mentioned throughout history, including during Roman times and the Middle Ages. Native Americans were developing and refining techniques for making ladles and spoons from animal horns long before there was any European contact. In Europe, molded horn jewelry and snuff boxes were popular in the eighteenth century.

The 1800's

Significant commercialization of bioplastics only began in the middle of the nineteenth century... The American inventor, John Wesley Hyatt, Jr., was looking for a substitute for ivory in the manufacture of billiard balls, and in 1869 patented a cellulose derivative for coating non-ivory billiard balls. That attempt, however, was affected by the coating's flammability; balls were occasionally ignited when lit cigars accidentally came into contact with them. Hyatt continued working on the project and soon developed celluloid, the first widely used plastic, now most widely known for its use in photographic and movie film.

The 1900's

The history of plastics changed dramatically in the early 1900s, as petroleum emerged as a source of fuel and of chemicals. The early bioplastics were simply displaced by plastics made from synthetic polymers. World War II brought on a large increase in plastics production, a growth which continues to this day.

The 1920's

In the 1920s Henry Ford experimented with using soybeans in the manufacture of automobiles. Ford was partly motivated by a desire to find non-food applications for agricultural surpluses, which existed then as they do now. Soy plastics were used for an increasing number of automobile parts, like steering wheels, interior trim, and dashboard panels. Finally Ford gave the go-ahead to produce a complete prototype "plastic car." Ford, a master at generating publicity, exhibited the prototype with great fanfare in 1941, but by the end of the year was no longer publicizing the "plastic car," probably for a variety of reasons. World War II played a role: armament work took precedent over almost everything else, and steel shortages limited all non-defense production. Today plastic automobile parts are common, but the use of plastics made from renewable raw materials got side-tracked.

The 1960's

One well established bioplastic that has survived the growth of the synthetic plastics industry is cellophane, a sheet material derived from cellulose. Although production peaked in the 1960s it is still used in packaging for candy, cigarettes, and other articles.

The 2000's and Beyond

Demand for materials like plastics is continually growing and will not be abated. Today, the plastics industry is an important component of our economy: The U.S. plastics industry includes over 20,000 facilities that produce or distribute materials or products, employ over 1.5 million workers, and ship over $300 billion in products each year.

The magnitude of the plastics industry, however, is itself a cause for concern. The pressures of increasing waste and diminishing resources have lead many to to try to re-discover natural polymers and put them to use as materials for manufactor and industry. As a result, there is increasing interest in the promise of a new generation of green plastics.

Reading Material

This article contains material that has been adapted from the Green Plastics book, copyright © 2002 Princeton University Press, with permission from the author.

Retrieved from "http://www.greenplastics.com/reference/index.php?title=Green_plastics#History_of_Bioplastics"

Category: Science articles

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Green plastics

From GreenPlastics

(Redirected from History of bioplastics)

This is the article describing green plastics. To view the article about the book called Green Plastics, see Green Plastics (book).

Green Plastics, sometimes also called Bioplastics, are plastics that are biodegradable and are usually made mostly or entirely from renewable resources. Frequently there is also a focus on environmentally friendly processing. Green plastics are the focus of an emerging industry focused on making convenient living consistent with environmental stability.

Like all plastics, bioplastics are composed of a polymer, combined with plasticizers and additives, and processed using extrusion or thermosetting. What makes green plastics "green" is one or more of the following properties:

  1. they are biodegradable
  2. they are made from renewable ingredients
  3. they have environmentally friendly processing

Because different compounds can satisfy some or all of these criteria to different degrees, there are different "degrees of green" in green plastics. To evaluate how "green" a plastic material is, you need to ask three questions:

  1. how quickly can the plastic be re-integrated into the environment after it is no longer being used?
  2. how quickly are the ingredients that go into making the plastic created in the environment?
  3. how much pollution or waste is created during the process of actually making the plastic?

Traditional plastics fail on all three of these points.

Contents

[hide]

  • 1 Biodegradability (What happens to them?)
  • 2 Renewability (What are they made of?)
  • 3 Processing (How are they made?)
  • 4 History of Bioplastics
    • 4.1 Early History
    • 4.2 The 1800's
    • 4.3 The 1900's
    • 4.4 The 1920's
    • 4.5 The 1960's
    • 4.6 The 2000's and Beyond
  • 5 Reading Material
  • 6 References

For bioplastics to become practical, they must have properties that allow them to compete with the current plastics on the market: bioplastics must be able to be strong, resiliant, flexible, elastic, and above all, durable. It is the very durability of traditional plastics that has helped them in the marketplace, and has been a major goal of plastics research throughout the years. However, it is exactly this durability that now has people increasingly worried. Now that we wrap our sandwiches in bags that will still be around when the sandwich, and even the person who ate it, are long gone, many people are wondering: have we gone too far?

There is a lot of current research going on concerning methods of decomposition. There is also research on controlling the time-line of biodegradation. One goal of this research is to make a product that is programmed-degradable: in other words, a product that allows you to control when and how it degrades, while insuring that the product remains strong while it is still in use.

Early History

Natural resins-like amber, shellac, and gutta percha-have been mentioned throughout history, including during Roman times and the Middle Ages. Native Americans were developing and refining techniques for making ladles and spoons from animal horns long before there was any European contact. In Europe, molded horn jewelry and snuff boxes were popular in the eighteenth century.

The 1800's

Significant commercialization of bioplastics only began in the middle of the nineteenth century... The American inventor, John Wesley Hyatt, Jr., was looking for a substitute for ivory in the manufacture of billiard balls, and in 1869 patented a cellulose derivative for coating non-ivory billiard balls. That attempt, however, was affected by the coating's flammability; balls were occasionally ignited when lit cigars accidentally came into contact with them. Hyatt continued working on the project and soon developed celluloid, the first widely used plastic, now most widely known for its use in photographic and movie film.

The 1900's

The history of plastics changed dramatically in the early 1900s, as petroleum emerged as a source of fuel and of chemicals. The early bioplastics were simply displaced by plastics made from synthetic polymers. World War II brought on a large increase in plastics production, a growth which continues to this day.

The 1920's

In the 1920s Henry Ford experimented with using soybeans in the manufacture of automobiles. Ford was partly motivated by a desire to find non-food applications for agricultural surpluses, which existed then as they do now. Soy plastics were used for an increasing number of automobile parts, like steering wheels, interior trim, and dashboard panels. Finally Ford gave the go-ahead to produce a complete prototype "plastic car." Ford, a master at generating publicity, exhibited the prototype with great fanfare in 1941, but by the end of the year was no longer publicizing the "plastic car," probably for a variety of reasons. World War II played a role: armament work took precedent over almost everything else, and steel shortages limited all non-defense production. Today plastic automobile parts are common, but the use of plastics made from renewable raw materials got side-tracked.

The 1960's

One well established bioplastic that has survived the growth of the synthetic plastics industry is cellophane, a sheet material derived from cellulose. Although production peaked in the 1960s it is still used in packaging for candy, cigarettes, and other articles.

The 2000's and Beyond

Demand for materials like plastics is continually growing and will not be abated. Today, the plastics industry is an important component of our economy: The U.S. plastics industry includes over 20,000 facilities that produce or distribute materials or products, employ over 1.5 million workers, and ship over $300 billion in products each year.

The magnitude of the plastics industry, however, is itself a cause for concern. The pressures of increasing waste and diminishing resources have lead many to to try to re-discover natural polymers and put them to use as materials for manufactor and industry. As a result, there is increasing interest in the promise of a new generation of green plastics.

Reading Material

This article contains material that has been adapted from the Green Plastics book, copyright © 2002 Princeton University Press, with permission from the author.

Retrieved from "http://www.greenplastics.com/reference/index.php?title=Green_plastics#History_of_Bioplastics"

Category: Science articles

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Plastics

From GreenPlastics

This is the article describing plastics. To view a list of different types of plastics see Plastics (list).

Plastics are a class of material that has one or more polymers as its primary ingredient, that is shaped by flow when it is processed (usually using heat), and that is solid in its final form. Plastics can be made up of many different kinds of polymer, and can be processed in many different ways, but as long as they satisfy these three conditions, they are bona fide plastics.

The general "recipe" for any kind of plastic is a combination of three ingredients: a polymer, one or more plasticizers, and one or more additives. These ingredients can then be processed into different shapes, resulting in a wide variety of different materials with different properties.

Traditional plastics are made up of synthetic polymers. In fact, over 90% of all plastics produced today are made from only five polymers: polyethylene, poly(vinyl chloride), polypropylene, polystyrene, and poly(ethylene aveterephthalate). All of these are synthetic polymers. However, environmental concerns have increased interest in green plastics that are made from biopolymers.

The pure polymer resin by itself may not always have the physical properties needed in the final product: it may be strong but too brittle, flexible but too elastic, or flexible and elastic but just plain ugly. Just like the polymer material itself, additives come in different varieties: some can be found in the environment, while others are manufactured. The amounts and types of additives used in manufacturing plastics are another factor that influence how environmentally-friendly they are.

Retrieved from "http://www.greenplastics.com/reference/index.php?title=Plastics"

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Introduction and overview

From GreenPlastics

To understand green plastics, you have to understand plastics: that is, you have to understand what common, day-to-day plastics are made of, what goes into their production, and why they are a matter of concern for the environment.

Although plastics as we know them today are a relatively recent invention, they have become an important part of modern life and are here to stay. In the l967 movie The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman's character was advised to go into "Plastics!" if he wanted a promising career and a prosperous future. That future is now.

Contents

[hide]

  • 1 The age of plastics
  • 2 Why green plastics?
  • 3 Making it a reality
  • 4 How to use this site

The age of plastics

Today, 200 billion pounds (100 million tons) of plastics are produced worldwide every year. Plastics are used for packaging, building materials, and virtually every type of consumer product. Past ages of human society have been called the Stone, Bronze, Copper, Iron, and Steel Ages, based on the material that was relied upon the most during that time. Today, the total volume of plastics produced worldwide has surpassed that of steel and continues to increase. Without a doubt, we have entered the Age of Plastics.

Some common plastic items include: sunglasses, tooth brushes, super glue, paint brushes, tennis shoes, Frisbees, 2-liter bottles, Honda CRX's, Astroturf, photographs, street signs, pens, automobile paint, video tapes, rubber bands, balloons, bicycle tires, umbrellas, guitar strings, carpeting, shower doors, hearing aids, Scotch Tape, fishing lines, trash bags, and toilet seats. Plastic can be found in everything from clothing to machinary.

It is important to understand the nature of plastics, and the consequences of their production and use. Virtually all plastics are made from nonrenewable resources, such as oil, coal or natural gas, which will eventually become exhausted.

Plastics waste is increasing, adding to the already burdensome problems of waste management. And the use of plastics continues to grow, raising the important question: how can we balance convenient living with concern for ecology? To understand this concern, it is helpful to understand what plastics are.

Why green plastics?

Green plastics are the focus of an emerging industry focused on making convenient living consistent with environmental stability. One reason to make a shift toward the use of green plastics is the availability of raw materials. Green plastics can be made using polymers that come from agricultural and marine feedstocks. These are abundant natural resources that are constantly being replenished. This, in turn could revitalize rural economy, both agricultural and marine, by providing additional demand for currently underutilized land or low-valued biomass commodities.

Another favorable property of green plastics is their biodegradability, making them a natural material for use in such applications as compostable collection bags, such as for food or yard waste.

But bioplastics have to possess adequate physical properties. Their properties have to be managed and controlled with technological means through the development of adequate formulations and plastics processing. The commercial ventures already under way in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan indicate that there is confidence technological advances are possible. The key to solving technical problems is often simply knowing what the problems are.

Bioplastics also have to be cost-competitive. Commercially available biopolymers are typically more expensive than synthetic polymers, often significantly so. Currently only starch competes with synthetic polymers in terms of cost. It is too early to tell how much the costs of raw materials might be brought down by a growing industry and the resulting increased demand.

Interest in the development of bioplastics will grow largely to the extent that there is real interest in and concern over the environment. Societal concern over the environment is already being reflected in governmental restrictive legislation on the use of plastics, particularly aimed at plastic packaging. Legislation has begun at the local, state, federal, and international levels, and legislation will undoubtedly increase in the future. New legislation will likely contain restrictions aimed at materials that are neither recyclable nor biodegradable. Labeling legislation may lead to an "ecolabel," based on a product's raw material usage, energy consumption, emissions from manufacture and use, and waste disposal impact.

Most of all, what is needed is a paradigm shift. We have grown accustomed to having a wide variety of useful plastic materials that are attractive, long lasting, and inexpensive. On the other hand, we are coming to realize, in retrospect, that we may have had too much of a good thing, and have given too little thought about the effect their continually increasing use has on the future.

Making it a reality

Ignoring nature's way of building strong materials, we have, for many applications, over-engineered our plastics for stability, with little consideration of their recyclability or ultimate fate, and ended up transforming irreplaceable resources into mountains of waste.

There is another way. We can take nature's building materials and use them for our purposes, without taking them out of nature's cycles. We can be borrowers, not consumers, so that the process can continue indefinitely. If society is indeed becoming more and more committed to resource conservation, environmental preservation, and sustainable technologies, bioplastics will find their place in this Age of Plastics.

The widespread use of these new plastics will depend on developing technologies that can be successful in the marketplace. That in turn will partly depend on how strongly society is committed to the concepts of resource conservation, environmental preservation, and sustainable technologies. There are growing signs that people indeed want to live in greater harmony with nature and leave future generations a healthy planet. If so, bioplastics will find a place in the current Age of Plastics.

How to use this site

This site is the home to a network of articles containing introductory material on the topic of green plastics (in particular) and plastics and the environment (more generally). Click around on any of the links to read the articles and learn!

You can also find links to other information resources, as well as companies involved in the production of green plastics. We also encourage you to contribute to the site, whether by writing articles or just telling us about a link that you would like to see added to our list!

Have fun, and please contact us if you have any questions!

Retrieved from "http://www.greenplastics.com/reference/index.php?title=Introduction_and_overview"

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