'New tailor-made biopolymers produced from lignocellulosic sugars waste for highly demanding fire-resistant applications'

A good start for 2017: Let's start measuring all plastics along the same yardstick!

In the many years that I've spent writing about the niche in the plastics industry known as bioplastics, I've never ceased to be amazed at two things: one, the profound ignorance that abounds about bioplastics and even about what they are; and two, the double standard applying to this class of materials.

When it comes to bioplastics, a surprisingly high number of people - consumers, but also 'professionals' such as compounders, processors and design engineers 'have only a faint idea, if that, of what they actually are or what they are made from. For that matter, many consumers are hazy about where plastics come from, period. A short 10 years ago, an online survey revealed that 72 percent of the American public was not aware that conventional plastic is made from petroleum products, primarily oil. 

In that light, the fact that over 50% of the respondents in a recent German survey reported that they had never heard of bioplastics, let alone knew what they were, should not astonish. A mere 7.1% said they were confident that they knew what bioplastics were, but of this group, only 15% actually got it right. A whopping 67% thought that bioplastics were the same as biodegradable plastics, while another sizable share said that they thought that bioplastics were plastics made from organically cultivated raw materials. As a participant at the 2016 European bioplastics conference in Berlin remarked, the level of knowledge is truly abysmal. "I've even had people think that they could eat plastics derived from sugar," he said. 

Yet what also became very clear from that very same German survey was that people were "in favour of and demand sustainable plastic solutions that reduce our dependency on fossil resources and use resources more efficiently", said Julia-Maria Blesin, a research assistant working on the project on behalf of which the survey was conducted.
What is needed is not more, but better communication. Technical information and facts are fine, but will only resonate and register with listeners if they can relate to them. Establishing a connection, making this information personally relevant will help to encourage the kind of engagement among consumers that is needed to truly bring bioplastics into the mainstream.

» Publication Date: 02/01/2017

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This project has received funding from the European Unionís Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration