Polymers have become an essential part of human life, especially since the last century, when synthetic polymers were developed and mass manufactured. However, this has had drastic consequences for the health of the planet. Thus, alternatives such as biopolymers have emerged.
In theory, not all synthetic polymers pose a threat to nature conservation. However, it is common for even recyclable and reusable compounds to be disposed of incorrectly, which has bad consequences in the same way.
Therefore, using biodegradable polymers in our daily lives is a great way to minimize the impact we cause on the environment. To better understand what this means, check out the following article that Polyexcel has prepared.
Polymers and the environmental impact
As we explained earlier on the Polyexcel blog, polymers can be natural or synthetic, organically emerging in nature or being created in a laboratory, respectively. Since the 19th century, natural ones have already been part of the lives of human beings.
In the 1930s, the first synthetic polymer was developed, revolutionizing the polymer industry. Although natural polymers have served society’s needs well so far, it was known that the raw material would no longer be sufficient and would limit technological evolution.
So, with the discovery of synthetic polymers, a gigantic movement was created to replace the tools that already existed. Glass bottles became PET, grocery bags became polyethylene bags, and then everything became plastic.
Since plastics are recyclable, there would be no problem with that, right? The thing is, not all synthetic polymers are plastic: some are thermoset, which are not recyclable and basically last forever. Thermoplastics are recyclable as long as they are properly intended for this purpose, which is not always the case.
Since the last century, around 9 billion tons of synthetic polymers have been produced in the world. According to the WWF, only 10% of all this material was recycled, while the rest ended up in the oceans or landfills. Therefore, as environmental concerns grew, polymers began to draw attention.
The (re)emergence of biopolymers
Despite being commonly treated as a revolutionary novelty, biopolymers have been around and used by us for a long time. There are records of the use of polymers of this type in 1000 BC, and, until the discovery of synthetics, they were the protagonists of the daily life of societies.
However, as synthetics are much more practical and cheaper to produce, natural polymers were left out. This lasted until concern about the impact on the environment made scientists in the area look for more sustainable yet cheaper alternatives.
In this way, the “new” biopolymers, also called bio-based polymers, emerged. This term means “polymers of natural origin” and explains in a more direct way what biopolymers are, so talked about nowadays.
As we explained earlier, although they still serve some purposes, the industry does not favor the use of natural polymers for a number of reasons. In this way, biopolymers are an alternative that uses these natural polymers alongside synthetic technologies to create eco-friendly materials.
How are they made?
Biopolymers are manufactured from raw materials derived from renewable sources. In the same way that synthetics commonly come from petroleum, natural polymers such as starch and cellulose can form the basis of these materials.
How to add them to everyday life
With the rise of the subject of environmental preservation in the polymer industry, several studies are being carried out regarding the adhesion of biopolymers, biodegradable polymers, and green polymers.
IExisting technologies allow the creation of synthetic biopolymers in order to facilitate the transition and ensure greater sustainability during this process. They use both renewable sources and other synthetic processes to create environmentally friendly materials.
In addition to these advances, it is now possible to find more sustainable alternatives to some items that we use on a daily basis. Examples include biodegradable plastic bags, clothing made from old materials, and biodegradable food packaging.
If there is still no sustainable substitute for the material you usually use, a good alternative is to investigate whether the company that manufactures it has good practices in relation to the environment. Carbon emission reduction and return policies are great examples of this type of movement.
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