We have compiled some terms related to bioplastics and their role in the circular economy and sustainable operations. The glossary is constantly updated and it is based on a similar glossary published in bioplastics MAGAZIN.
Click on the terms for descriptions:
The term biobased describes the part of a material or product that is stemming from biomass. When making a biobased claim, the unit (biobased carbon content, biobased mass content), a percentage and the measuring method should be clearly stated.
A plastic in which constitutional units are totally or partly from biomass. If this claim is used, a percentage should always be given to which extent the product/material is biobased.
are plastics that are completely assimilated by the microorganisms present a defined environment as food for their energy. The carbon of the plastic must completely be converted into CO2 during the microbial process. The process of biodegradation depends on the environmental conditions, which influence it (e.g. location, temperature, humidity) and on the material or application itself. Consequently, the process and its outcome can vary considerably. Biodegradability is linked to the structure of the polymer chain; it does not depend on the origin of the raw materials.
There is currently no single, overarching standard to back up claims about biodegradability. One standard, for example, is ISO or in Europe: EN 14995 Plastics – Evaluation of compostability – Test scheme and specifications.
Material of biological origin excluding material embedded in geological formations and material transformed to fossilised material. This includes organic material, e.g. trees, crops, grasses, tree litter, algae and waste of biological origin, e.g. manure.
(as defined by European Bioplastics e.V.) is a term used to define two different kinds of plastics:
a/ Plastics based on renewable resources (the focus is the origin of the raw material used). These can be biodegradable or not.
b/ Biodegradable and compostable plastics according to EN13432 or similar standards (the focus is the compostability of the final product; biodegradable and compostable plastics can be based on renewable (biobased) and/or nonrenewable (fossil) resources).
Bioplastics may be
- based on renewable resources and biodegradable;
- based on renewable resources but not be biodegradable; and
- based on fossil resources and biodegradable.
is the compilation and evaluation of the input, output and the potential environmental impact of a product system throughout its life cycle. It is sometimes also referred to as life cycle analysis, eco-balance or cradle-to-grave analysis.
is an established process with commonly agreed-upon requirements (e.g. temperature, timeframe) for transforming biodegradable waste into stable, sanitised products to be used in agriculture. The criteria for industrial compostability of packaging have been defined in the EN 13432. Materials and products complying with this standard can be certified and subsequently labelled accordingly.
Natural polymer (carbohydrate) consisting of amylose and amylopectin, gained from maize, potatoes, wheat, tapioca etc. When glucose is connected to polymer chains in a definite way the result (product) is called starch. Each molecule is based on 300 -12000-glucose units. Depending on the connection, there are two types known amylose and amylopectin.
Sum of greenhouse gas emissions and removals in a product system, expressed as CO2 equivalent, and based on a Life Cycle Assessment. The CO2 equivalent of a specific amount of a greenhouse gas is calculated as the mass of a given greenhouse gas multiplied by its global warming potential.
Plastic mixture from different raw materials (polymer and additives).
Plastics that are biodegradable under composting conditions: specified humidity, temperature, microorganisms and timeframe. To make accurate and specific claims about compostability, the location (home, industrial) and timeframe need to be specified. Several national and international standards exist for clearer definitions, for example, EN 14995 Plastics – Evaluation of compostability – Test scheme and specifications.
The circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended. In practice, it implies reducing waste to a minimum. Ideally erasing waste altogether, by reintroducing a product, or its material, at the end-of-life back in the production process – closing the loop. These can be productively used again and again, thereby creating further value. This is a departure from the traditional, linear economic model, which is based on a take-make-consume- throw away pattern. This model relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials, and green energy.
Polylactide or polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable, thermoplastic, linear aliphatic polyester based on lactic acid, a natural acid, is mainly produced by fermentation of sugar or starch with the help of micro-organisms. Lactic acid comes in two isomer forms, i.e. as laevorotatory D(-)lactic acid and as dextrorotary L(+) lactic acid. Modified PLA types can be produced by the use of the right additives or by certain combinations of L- and D- lactides (stereocomplexing), which then have the required rigidity for use at higher temperatures.
means the treatment of separately collected organic waste by anaerobic digestion and/or composting.