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The WGSN Sustainability Glossary: what are bioplastics?

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May 10, 2023 By WGSN Insider
Updates from WGSN

The WGSN Sustainability Glossary provides definitions for key concepts and terminology related to environmental, social and economical sustainability throughout the whole supply chain.

We explore how bioplastic innovation can make a genuine environmental difference by tackling the issue of plastic pollution, but what are bioplastics and how can brands incorporate this material into their product strategies? 

monstera plant covered in plastic
Nazli Mozaffari/Unsplash

What are bioplastics?

Considered the more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional plastics made from fossil fuels, bioplastics are produced entirely or partly from renewable biomass sources (plants or animal materials) rather than non-renewable petroleum.

Applicable across all industries, the growing development of recycled plastic and bioplastic reflects the industry’s interest in lower-impact alternatives and rising consumer demand. 

WGSN Sustainability Bulletin

Bioplastics and innovation

Over the past 60 years, we have placed 6bn tonnes of plastic waste into our environment and only 9% of this waste is successfully recycled. Origin, which describes itself as a "carbon-negative materials company" has announced the construction of its first large-scale PET-manufacturing facility in Louisiana, US. The plant will be operational by mid-2025, offering bioplastic alternatives on a commercial scale.

                    Lemon Crystal Fairy’ by MADbyMAD

Slovakian CSM design graduate Mata Durikovic (AKA MADbyMAD) pushes the boundaries in material innovations, delivering unexpected sustainability with his latest collection. She creates eye-catching designs using Swarovski crystal waste, leather and deadstock yarns, and edible bioplastics from starch, fruit and jelly.

Two common renewable plastics today, PE and PLA use new processes that rely on fermented sugar from sugarcane and corn. Another option is to use non-food crops, such as polyamide made with castor beans. Alongside implementations in hard product design, softer applications such as flooring and responsible leather and upholstery alternatives are also viable.

This bioplastic has broad applications: French brand Alki’s chair uses this relatively inexpensive, easy-to-process material.

tractor on farm
Josh Withers/Pexels

WGSN subscribers can discover more key terms in our Sustainability Glossary.

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