CUED Publications database

Life cycle assessments of biodegradable, commercial biopolymers - A critical review

Yates, MR and Barlow, CY (2013) Life cycle assessments of biodegradable, commercial biopolymers - A critical review. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 78. pp. 54-66. ISSN 0921-3449

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Biopolymers are generally considered an eco-friendly alternative to petrochemical polymers due to the renewable feedstock used to produce them and their biodegradability. However, the farming practices used to grow these feedstocks often carry significant environmental burdens, and the production energy can be higher than for petrochemical polymers. Life cycle assessments (LCAs) are available in the literature, which make comparisons between biopolymers and various petrochemical polymers, however the results can be very disparate. This review has therefore been undertaken, focusing on three biodegradable biopolymers, poly(lactic acid) (PLA), poly(hydroxyalkanoates) (PHAs), and starch-based polymers, in an attempt to determine the environmental impact of each in comparison to petrochemical polymers. Reasons are explored for the discrepancies between these published LCAs. The majority of studies focused only on the consumption of non-renewable energy and global warming potential and often found these biopolymers to be superior to petrochemically derived polymers. In contrast, studies which considered other environmental impact categories as well as those which were regional or product specific often found that this conclusion could not be drawn. Despite some unfavorable results for these biopolymers, the immature nature of these technologies needs to be taken into account as future optimization and improvements in process efficiencies are expected. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Div E > Production Processes
Depositing User: Cron Job
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2017 19:14
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2018 20:25