The last decade has seen a huge growth of products that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. Being biodegradable was once a secondary thought, but as raw materials are becoming harder to supply and dispose of, we must stay conscious of where our raw materials come from and go when the product has completed its function. Choosing a biodegradable resin option for your product makes sense, but which option will be best? We’ll explore one of the most popular biodegradable options currently available for your new plastic injection molding project.
What is a Biodegradable Plastic?
The current trend with consumers is to seek out products that are environmentally friendly. They are looking for products that use sustainable raw materials for their manufacturing and are eco-friendly when they are disposed of. That typically involves a biodegradable option, even with plastic injection molding. Biodegradable plastics will degrade over time and return to their base materials without any extra intervention from people or a supply of oxygen. The main difference between a biodegradable plastic and petrochemical plastic relates to carbon. Petroleum based plastics hold carbon after being formed. As the petroleum-based plastics degrade, they slowly release that trapped carbon back into the atmosphere through degradation or melting to be recycled. Biodegradable plastics do not release any carbon back into the environment since carbon isn’t used in the initial creation and isn’t a byproduct as it degrades over time.
Biodegradable plastic resins are typically decomposed by the action of living organisms like bacteria and fungi, which can eat the plastic resin and change it back into a natural material. It is a perfect option for one-time use plastics that will be eventually discarded after use. One of the most common biodegradable plastic resins being used in plastic injection molding is Thermoplastic Starch-Based Plastic (TPS).
What is Thermoplastic Starch-Based Plastic?
Crops that are high in starch are grown around the world. The food industry uses starch for thickening of sauces and gravies, while other industries use starch as an additive for biodegradable carbon-free materials. This can be a great selling point for TPS to be utilized in your next consumer product. Savvy consumers understand carbon’s effect on global warming and climate change, so choosing TPS or another biodegradable plastic for your product may be the difference needed to change their buying habits.
Thermoplastic Starch-based Plastic characteristics can be modified and enhanced by mixing with other fillers, polymers, and/or fibers. Common polymers included are cellulose, polyvinyl alcohol, natural rubber, a corn product called Zein, acrylate, polyethylene and ethylene co-polymers, polyesters, and polyurethanes. Added fibers are typically wood pulp, Hemp and other plant fibers as they are abundant and a low-cost addition.
Many renewable and biodegradable commercial applications include:
- Food packaging (one-time use containers and wrapping materials)
- Disposable eating utensils (one-time use forks, spoons, and knives)
- Loose packing materials (one-time use biodegradable packing peanuts)
- Protective packaging and films
- Compostable bags and films that will degrade in recycling facilities and/or landfills
There are many options to choose from for biodegradable resins as you search for your next plastic injection molding product. If you don’t know which option is the best for your next invention, don’t feel overwhelmed. The experts at SEA-LECT Plastics are here to help. If you need advice on which biodegradable resin option would best for your product, or just need a sounding board to discuss the various options an end of life scenarios, we are ready to start your next project with you. Give us a call at (425) 339-0288 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have experts that can aid with resin selection on a new product to increase recyclability and reduce waste. We can also offer rapid prototyping, turn-key assembly options, and world-class logistics to move your product through development and into the hands of customers. At SEA-LECT Plastics, we specialize in military product applications, outdoor adventure gear, musical instruments, and we support the medical and consumer product industries.
Matthias Poischbeg was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Matt moved to Everett, Wash., after finishing his bachelor’s degree in business in 1995 to work for Sea-Dog Corporation, a manufacturer, and distributor of marine and rigging hardware established in 1923.
In 1999, Matt took over the reins at Sea-Lect Plastics Corporation, a sister company of Sea-Dog and a manufacturer of plastic injection molded products with an in-house tool & die shop. Matthias Poischbeg is also a contributor to Grit Daily.