Bioplastics are a material made from renewable organic materials often used to make bottles and containers. In recent years however they are gaining traction in the construction industry as a building material.
But first, what are bioplastics? And where do they come from?
There are a number of different types of bioplastic made from properties found in wood, starch and vegetable fats. They all come from renewable sources which means aside from the lack of fossil fuels, increased farming for production means that we are introducing more Co2 eating plants to our landscape.
"Bioplastics are made from properties found in nature like wood, starch and vegetable fats."[Photo Credit: Stuttgart University]
This image is a closeup of the Stuttgart University Institute of Building Construction and Structural Design’s bioplastic facade made from Abroskin, or liquid wood, a type of bioplastic.
Liquid wood is when lingin, an element of wood usually discarded in other industries, is mixed with resin, flax and fibers. The liquid can essentially shape-shift and solidify in a way that mimics plastic. It can be injected into molds and take the form of detailed and sharp objects
"The liquid can essentially shape-shift and solidify in a way that mimics plastic."
Durable and flexible, this is another innovation joining the sustainable construction materials revolution.
The next type of bioplastic in our list is starch based.
This is the most common type of bioplastic and the easiest to make. It’s usually used in the production of food containers but there is no reason it couldn’t be used in the construction of temporary structures.
Starch based plastic is sometimes used as plastic wrap for flowers. It can be made in varying thicknesses and, as a thermoplastic, it can be heated and molded into different shapes. And of course, it is completely biodegradable - fantastic!
"It is completely biodegradable."
It’s made by combining corn starch, water, glycerin and acetic acid in water or vinegar.
The final step in our brief rendezvous in to the world of bioplastics is AirCarbon.
AirCarbon is a way to replace the oil in plastics preventing unnecessary Co2 emissions from contaminating the air. AirCarbon comes from Newlight Technologies, a company based in the US.
"AirCarbon is a way to replace the oil in plastics, preventing unnecessary Co2 emissions contaminating the air."
How does AirCarbon work?
By collecting methane from farms and landfill sites, rather than it being set alight on site and releasing the resulting carbon dioxide in to the air. According to the Newlight Technologies website “AirCarbon instead combines this methane with air and a biocatalyst which converts the methane into plastic polymers”.
Very clever stuff!
As construction materials go, bioplastics are a wonderful addition to the sustainable revolution.