More and more often, new bio-based and renewable plastics not only contain higher percentages of bio-based and/or recycled content, they're also likely to be biodegradable or compostable. In this slideshow's latest crop of new materials and methods for making them, some materials can even be completely recycled several times without loss of original properties.
Natural Polymers, a new study from The Freedonia Group, finds that most US growth in natural polymers is driven by the food and beverage industry, which is demanding natural ingredients. This will, in turn, boost the use of cellulose ethers, as well as starch and fermentation polymers between now and 2020. These last two types, led by PLA (polylactic acid), will grow the most of all natural polymer types during that period. The medical market will also foster strong demand for most types of natural polymers, and will become the largest segment by 2020.
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Instead of throwing away byproducts from the processing of legumes, like these green beans, why not turn them into something useful? That's the main aim of the European LEGUVAL project. Four European research centers have been working with business associations and private enterprises to find more sustainable and renewable sources for making plastics. Legumes are potential sources of fiber, biomass, biofuels, and chemical products, as well as their existing uses as food. The LEGUVAL project aims to develop plastic materials based on legume waste for agriculture, packaging, and automotive applications by extracting their proteins and fiber. So far, researchers have developed coatings using pea proteins with novel barrier properties and composites with legume fibers. Next up will be testing in real-world agricultural and packaging applications on an industrial scale.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons/Susan Slater)
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Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 28 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she's also written about machine vision and all kinds of communications.