Knowledgebase

Feeling a little confused about something? Read through our knowledge base to learn some more on all things Bioplastic.

  • Biobased

    Defined by the 2002 Farm Bill, biobased products are commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that are composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products, renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials), or forestry materials.

  • Biodegradable

    Able to be broken down into simpler substances (elements and compounds) by naturally occurring decomposers, in a relatively short period of time

  • Biomass

    Organic, non-fossil material that is available on a renewable basis. Biomass includes all biological organisms, dead or alive, and their metabolic by-products, that have not been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum. Examples of biomass are forest and mill residues, agricultural crops and wastes, wood and wood wastes, animal wastes, livestock operation residues, aquatic plants, and municipal and industrial wastes.

  • Bioplastics

    Bioplastics are biobased and/or are biodegradable (including compostable, marine and soil biodegradable, and aerobic and anaerobic digestible) plastics that provide consumers and manufacturers with a revolutionary option to help safeguard the environment and support a sustainable future. Bioplastic resin is used to manufacture products including tableware, cutlery, toys, healthcare and hygiene products, bottles and containers, bags, packaging, gift cards, printed displays, straws, pipes, conduits, furniture, fashion accessories and many other products.

  • Biopolymer

    Polymers produced by living organisms; they are biodegradable and some are suitable for composting. Also called renewable polymers, biopolymers are reduced from biomass such as sugar beet, potatoes or wheat

  • BioPreferred program

    US Department of Agriculture (USDA) program that promotes the increased purchase and use of bio-based products. The USDA BioPreferred label assures the consumer that a product or package contains a verified amount of renewable biological ingredients.

  • Blow molding

    Extrusion of a hollow melt tube which is forced to a mold caving by internal pressure and cooled down to form a hollow article. Used for the production of bottles, wide-mouth containers, petrol tanks etc

  • BPA (bisphenol A)

    A controversial, synthetic estrogen used for more than 40 years to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin. BPA-based plastics break down readily, particularly when heated or washed with strong detergent. Trace BPA exposure has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders. In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration raised concerns regarding exposure, and in September 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA as a toxic substance.

  • BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute)

    A professional association of key individuals and groups from government, industry and academia, which promotes the use, and recycling of biodegradable polymeric materials (via composting). It provides scientific testing standards and independent review of test results to certify that products will biodegrade in a composting facility.

  • Carbon footprint

    The total amount of greenhouse gases emitted directly and indirectly to support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of either carbon or carbon dioxide. Carbon footprints are calculated by countries as part of their reporting requirements, as well as by companies, regions, or individuals.

  • Carbon neutral

    Refers to the practice of balancing carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, with renewable energy that creates a similar amount of useful energy, so that the carbon emissions are compensated, or alternatively using only renewable energies that don’t produce any carbon dioxide

  • Cellulose

    The most common organic compound on Earth, it is the structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants and many forms of algae. About 33% of all plant matter is cellulose (the cellulose content of cotton is 90% and that of wood is 40-50%)

  • Composting

    A process whereby organic wastes, including food and paper, decompose naturally, resulting in a product rich in minerals and ideal for gardening and farming as a soil conditioner, mulch, resurfacing material, or landfill cover

  • Downcycle

    The process of converting waste materials into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. White writing paper, for example, is often downcycled into materials such as cardboard and cannot be used to create more premium writing paper.

  • End of life

    Term referring to what happens to item after it has been consumed or used

  • European Bioplastics Standards

    The European branch association representing industrial manufacturers, processors and users of bioplastics and biodegradable polymers (BDP) and their derivative products. Plastic products can provide proof of their compostability by successfully meeting the harmonised European standard, EN 13432 or EN 14995.

  • EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate)

    A polymer that approaches elastomeric materials in softness and flexibility, yet can be processed like other thermoplastics. The material has good clarity and gloss, barrier properties, low-temperature toughness, stress-crack resistance, hot-melt adhesive water proof properties, and resistance to UV radiation. EVA has little or no odor and is competitive with rubber and vinyl products in many electrical applications.

  • Extrusion

    A manufacturing process in which raw plastic material is melted and formed into a continuous profile. Extrusion produces items such as pipe/tubing, weather stripping, window frames, adhesive tape and wire insulation.

  • Feedstock

    The bulk raw material used to create plastic. Traditional plastics use petroleum feedstocks that are not renewable. Bioplastics use bio-materials as feedstocks, including corn, wheat, tapioca, and potatoes.

  • Fossil fuel

    Any naturally occurring carbon or hydrocarbon fuel, such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, formed by the decomposition of prehistoric organisms.

  • Genetically Modified (GM)

    A controversial topic, as much of the feedstock planted for industrial uses is genetically modified. It raises the question of the potential contamination of conventional crops.

  • Green

    Relating to or being an environmentalist political movement; tending to preserve environmental quality

  • Greenhouse gas

    A gas in the atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect (phenomenon where the atmosphere traps solar heat radiated back from the earth’s surface), contributing to climate change and the destruction of the ozone layer. In order, the most abundant greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons.

  • HDPE (high density polyethylene)

    A rigid, high density plastic that is used for a variety of products, many of which are recyclable. Most plastic manufacturers make use of HDPE because the resins used to create it are relatively inexpensive, impact resistant, chemical resistant, and offer excellent protection against moisture. They are often used create containers for products such as milk, water, household chemicals, detergents, cosmetics, and gasoline. Has an SPI code of 2.

  • Hygroscopic

    Able to effectively absorb moisture in the air. Hygroscopic plastics are often used to manufacture plastic food wrap.

  • Injection molding

    A repetitive process in which plastic is melted and injected into a mold cavity where the article is cooled down. After cooling, the mold opens and the article is ejected.

  • LDPE (low density polyethylene)

    Same as HDPE in composition but is a more translucent and flexible plastic. Since it is a softer material, LDPE plastics are often used in a variety of flexible applications such as squeeze bottles, plastic film, grocery bags, and wire cable coverings.

  • LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

    A registered system of rating existing and new buildings, interiors, and other components based on environmental effectiveness. The LEED checklist integrates over 60 different criteria and results in certification at 4 levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

  • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)

    An examination, like an audit, of the total impact of a product or service’s manufacturing, use, and disposal in terms of material and energy. This includes an analysis and inventory of all parts, materials, and energy, and their impacts in the manufacturing of a product but usually doesn’t include social impacts.

  • Methane (CH4)

    A colorless, explosive greenhouse gas with a global warming potential estimated at 23 times that of carbon dioxide. Released as bacteria decompose organic materials in landfills.

  • MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)

    A document designed to provide both workers and emergency personnel with the proper procedures for handling or working with a particular substance. An MSDS includes information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill/leak procedures.

  • Non-biodegradable

    Not able to be consumed and/or broken down by biological organisms. Nonbiodegradable substances include most traditional plastics, aluminum, and many chemicals used in industry and agriculture.

  • Organic

    In regards to food (both plant and animal) and other agricultural products (such as cotton), a term describing the absence of pesticides, hormones, synthetic fertilizers and other toxic materials in cultivation. In some countries, “organic” has a legal definition. For example, in the USA, it is defined in the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 and refers to food and products that are at least 95% free of toxic and synthetic materials as described in the USDA National Organic Program.

  • Oxo-biodegradable (OBD) plastic

    A petroleum based plastic with metal salt additives that enables the plastic to degrade when subject to certain environment conditions

  • PC (polycarbonate)

    Polycarbonates were developed commercially in 1957 and are one of the pioneering members of the family of “engineering thermoplastics” created to compete with die-cast metals. They are strong, tough and rigid, while having the ductility normally associated with softer, lower-modulus thermoplastics. They also have excellent electrical insulating characteristics, maintained over a wide range of temperatures and loading rates. Polycarbonates are transparent and can be processed in a variety of ways, including injection molding, extrusion, and blow molding

  • PE (polyethylene)

    The largest volume plastic in the world. This plastic came to the fore during the World War II years, first as an underwater cable coating, then as a critical insulating material for such vital military applications as radar cable. Applications for polyethylenes are many and varied, including: packaging films; trash, garment, grocery and shopping bags; molded housewares; toys; containers; pipe; drums; gasoline tanks; coatings and many others.

  • PET, also PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)

    A strong, stiff synthetic fiber and resin, and a member of the polyester family of polymers. PET is spun into fibres for permanent-press fabrics, blow-molded into disposable beverage bottles, and extruded into photographic film and magnetic recording tape. Has an SPI code of 1.

  • PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate)

    A biopolymer created from a plant when bacterial enzymes are combined with the plant’s own enzymes. Is UV stable, unlike other biopolymers such as PLA

  • PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate)

    A type of PHA

  • PLA (polylactic acid)

    A biopolymer made from plant-derived sugars that are fermented and converted in lactic acid. The lactic acid molecules then link to form rings called lactide monomers, which then link together to create a chain of polylactide polymer.

  • Plastic converters

    Production facilities that convert plastic resin material or pellets to a usable form using traditional equipment and processes including injection molding, thermoforming, and extrusion.

  • Platform chemical

    Compounds that can be used to produce a broad range of technologically relevant substances

  • Polyolefin, also polyalkene

    The largest class of organic thermoplastic polymers. They are odorless and nonporous, and used in consumer goods, structural plastics, food packaging and industrial prodcuts. The name means “oil-like”, and refers to the oily or waxy texture of this class of plastic resins.

  • PP (polypropylene)

    Another “workhorse” of the plastics industry, polypropylene is one of the high-volume “commodity” thermoplastics. Polypropylene was developed out of the Nobel award-winning work of Karl Ziegler and Professor Natta in Europe, and came to the United States in 1957. It belongs to the “olefins” family, which also includes the polyethylenes, but it is quite different in its properties. It has a low density, is fairly rigid, has a heat distortion temperature of 150 to 200 degres F (making it suitable for “hot-fill” packaging applications), and excellent chemical resistance and electrical properties. Major applications of commercial PP are packaging, automotive, appliances and carpeting.

  • PPC (polypropylene carbonate)

    Used in applications where diffusion of oxygen through plastic is desirable

  • PS (polystyrene)

    Most commonly known as Styrofoam, foamed polystyrene is familiar to consumers as foam cups and containers, protective packaging and building insulation. Polystyrene is also widely used in other packaging and food service products, such as trays, disposable plates, cutlery and tumblers. Other applications include: automotive parts, toys, housewares, appliance parts, wall tiles, radio and TV housings, furniture, floats, luggage and many more. Has an SPI code of 6.

  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride)

    Best known as PVC or vinyl, the pure polymer is hard, brittle and difficult to process, but it becomes flexible when plasticizers are added. Vinyls are used mainly for their chemical and weathering resistance, high dielectric properties, or abrasion resistance. Vinyl is also dip molded into gloves, slush molded into boots and foamed to make calendered flooring, leather-like upholstery, shoe fabrics and carpet backing. Has an SPI code of 3.

  • Recycling

    The process of reclaiming materials from used products or materials from their manufacturing and using them in the manufacturing of new products. It is different from Reuse, where products are not destroyed and remanufactured but cleaned and repaired to be used again, also known as remanufacturing.

  • Renewable

    Any material or energy that can be replenished in full without loss or degradation in quality

  • Resin pellets

    Plastic resin pellets are small granules generally with shape of a cylinder or a disk with a diameter of a few millimeters. These plastic particles are industrial raw material transported to manufacturing sites where “user plastics” are made by re-melting and molding into the final products.

  • Succinic Acid

    A platform chemical that can be produced using biotechnological methods, and has its greatest potential as a new raw material in the plastics industry where it can be used to produce new, biodegradable polyesters. Previously, succinic acid was exclusively produced from fossil materials and was too expensive for such applications.

  • Sustainability

    The ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their own (as defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development held by the United Nations in 1983). The concept of sustainability is that humans synchronize our consumption of natural resources with the earth’s production – in other words, using up natural resources at the same rate at which they are produced.

  • The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI)

    An organization that established a classification system in 1988 to allow consumers and recyclers to properly recycle and dispose of different types of plastic. Manufacturers follow a coding system and place an SPI code, or number, on each plastic product, which is usually molded into the bottom.

  • Thermoforming

    A manufacturing process where a plastic sheet is heated to a pliable forming temperature, formed to a specific shape in a mold, and trimmed to create a usable product.

  • Thermoplastics

    A type of plastics that do not undergo chemical change in their composition when heated and can be molded again and again; examples are PE, PS, PVC, and PTFE

  • Thermosets

    A type of plastics that once melted and molded, retain their new structure and cannot be remelted or reprocessed

  • Upcycle

    The process of converting a material into something of similar or greater value, in its second life. Aluminum and glass, for example, can usually be upcycled into the same quality of aluminum and glass as the original products.