Plastics made from crops such as maize or sugarcane instead of fossil fuels are generally considered sustainable.
Plastics made from crops such as maize or sugarcane instead of fossil fuels are generally considered sustainable. One reason is that plants bind CO2, which compensates for the carbon released into the atmosphere when plastics are disposed. However, there is a catch: With increasing demand for raw materials for bioplastic production, the areas under cultivation may not be sufficient. As a result, natural vegetation is often converted to agricultural land and forests are cut down. This in turn releases large amounts of CO2. The assumption that more bioplastics does not necessarily lead to more climate protection has now been confirmed by researchers at the University of Bonn in a new study. They found that the sustainability of plant-based bioplastics depends largely on the country of origin, its trade relationships and the raw material processed. The study has been published in the journal "Resources, Conservation & Recycling".
As in previous analyses, the scientists used a global, flexible and modular economic model developed at the University of Bonn to simulate the impact of rising supply for bioplastics. The model is based on a world database (Global Trade Analysis Project). For their current study, the researchers modified the original model by disaggregating both conventional plastics and bioplastics, as well as additional crops such as maize and cassava. "This is crucial to better represent the bioplastics supply chain in major producing regions and assess their environmental impacts from a life cycle perspective," emphasizes agricultural engineer Dr. Neus Escobar, who conducted the study at the Institute for Food and Resource Economics (ILR) and the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn and is now based at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg (Austria).
Read more at: University of Bonn