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The World of Bio Plastics

As bioplastic we intend all those materials and manufactured products, are both from renewable or fossil sources, which are characterized by being biodegradable and compostable. The concept of bioplastic therefore applies to those products that will guarantee organic and certifiable recyclability in various environments (ex.

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Composting, anaerobic digestion, soil) at the end of their lifecycle. The use of renewable sources, and better still ones coming from by-products, is an integrating, but not in itself sufficient, part of a bioplastic.

The use of renewable raw materials is also possible in the production of traditional polymers, for example the so called green polyethylene which behaves, at the end of its lifecycle, in the same way as those derived from fossil sources and therefore does not contain biodegradability and compostability characteristics. These products should be qualified as ‘vegetable plastics’, to avoid confusion with bioplastics.

THE SITUATION

Currently world wide we consume about 250 millions tonnes per year of traditional plastic products (without considering synthetic fibres).The global production capacity of bioplastic is of only about 1 million tonnes per year, that is less than 0,5% of the maximum technical potential replacement of traditional plastics.

The main sectors of application are those linked to the organic waste fraction and of the garden waste (sacks and bags for organic waste collection used in thousands of Italian municipalities), of packaging and consumer of food (film, cutlery, catering), of transport of goods (bags to take away goods, bags for fruits and vegetables), of agriculture (film mulching, jars).

THE ORGANIC FRACTION

According to the latest ISPRA report of the municipal waste, referring to 2010, the organic waste fraction collection has reached in Italy 3,7 million tonnes, compared to 2,9 millions of paper and of about 612 thousand tonnes of plastic. The organic fraction then, although collected in a minority of the Italian territory, represents today the most important flow of household wastes collected separately representing 34,7 % of all the separate waste collection in Italy.

Again according to the ISPRA report, during 2009 more than 1,3 millions tonnes of compost was produced, a quantity which brings Italy to second place, after Germany in terms of quantity produced.

According to recent data of the Italian Composing Association, more than 100 thousand tonnes of plastic materials are delivered annually as sacks and bags, food wrapping and various packaging to the composing plants.

These materials must be removed to avoid the depreciation of the finished product, the compost.

This activity is expensive, not always efficient and it causes the loss of large quantities of compostable fractions. In addition to this, the plastic fractions remaining risk of lowering the final quality of the compost.

According to estimates disclosed by the Italian Composing Association, more than 26 million Euro are spent annually in activities of selection and disposal of plastic packaging.

The introduction and the use of plastic and compostable products, starting at bags for the separate collection of organic household, contribute in a decisive way to the pursuit of collection targets of governments and to the marketing of quality compost by composting plants.

2011 CIC’s annual report “Compost and biogas”