The use of bio-based chemicals is on the rise around the world, and that trend is helping sustainability efforts. For reference, a bio-based chemical is a substance constructed from materials that are currently alive or were once living. Keep reading to explore how some of these bio-based chemicals are being used to help societies and the planet.
DuPont presents innovative biopolymer at a recent conference
DuPont is one company that recently showed off its materials during the 2017 Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference (ABLC) in Washington, D.C. Among some of the bio-based chemicals demonstrated was a biopolymer called Sorona that’s often used in residential carpeting and car mats.
It includes 37 percent renewable plant-based ingredients, uses 30 percent less energy and releases 63 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to similar materials. Furthermore, it has the highest composition of biologically based ingredients of all options in the synthetic carpet market and is completely renewable and recyclable.
Bio-based chemicals used for plastics are becoming more popular
Only about two percent of the plastics made around the world are bio-based. But recent reports say there is a growing market for bio-based materials to replace conventional plastic materials.
NatureWorks LLC is trying to make a better type of food package, known as Ingeo, through a production process that causes a 75 percent reduction in greenhouse gas production and relies on 50 percent less non-renewable energy than polystyrene or PET. It contains a polylactide derived from cornstarch.
Experts say Ingeo is not a replacement for other types of plastics such as those mentioned above, but it has some merits. Representatives from Natureworks LLC say Ingeo does not work well for making plastic bottles because the material is breathable and could make water evaporate. However, it’s great for leafy greens containers because Ingeo boosts the overall shelf life of the product inside.
Bio-based chemicals offer widespread advantages
Besides the environmental-based perks you’ve already learned about, bio-based chemicals have many other positive attributes that may stimulate interest even from companies that typically only use conventional chemicals in their processes.
For example, bio-based chemicals are often associated with reduced expenses because the byproducts of bio-based chemicals are non-toxic and do not make hazardous waste. Analysts also believe bio-based chemicals could revitalize rural farming communities and assist the hard-working farmers that grow the sources of bio-based materials.
In Central Illinois, the Archer Daniels Midland Company is looking at ways to boost the region’s economy by focusing on bio-based materials, especially since the industry may create up to 20,000 jobs, and the farming community in Central Illinois wants to show it’s well equipped to take as many as possible.
Representatives from the Archer Daniel Midlands Company have met with DuPont to figure out how the two companies might join forces to make a new kind of plastic bottle that includes developing a plastic bottle using furan dicarboxylic methyl ester, or FDME. It’s believed that new type of bottle could improve shelf life by keeping carbon dioxide in the container and not allowing oxygen to enter.
In Austrailia, bio-based chemicals are helping farmers too, especially through the growing use of Sero-X. It’s a bee-friendly pesticide that features peptides from the butterfly pea as its active ingredient. So far, Sero-X was used on macadamia crops last year and recently won approval to be used on cotton. Its manufacturer has also signed a deal with a Belgian company to advertise Sero-X and make it available around the world.
One of Australia’s largest bee pollinators lost 500 hives in 2013 when insecticide drifted over from a neighboring cotton farm. Sero-X could prevent that from happening again and preserve the world’s dwindling bee population.
As you can see, bio-based chemicals don’t just help sustain the planet as a whole, but they also assist some of the planet’s inhabitants, particularly through current and potential job creation. It’ll certainly be exciting to see the kinds of products invented within this emerging industry.
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by Bobbi Peterson —