Bioplastic is easy

Enter the simplest, and most elegant bioplastic production process you’ve ever seen. In this article we’ll summarise “A strong, biodegradable and recyclable lignocellulosic bioplastic” and tell you why this work is special.

credit Getty


In “a strong, biodegradable and recyclable lignocellulosic bioplastic”, it seems like Xia et al got fed up, put a blindfold on, chucked a few chemicals in a box and, in doing so, accidentally created bioplastic. When reading the paper, it’s quite easy to miss the part where they explain the actual experimental protocol (because it’s so short):

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The experimental protocol for creating lignocellulosic bioplastic (credit Xia et al.)

In other words:

1. Take some wood and add DES (ChCl/oxalic acid) to dissolve lignin and fibrillate cellulose.
2. Add water to regenerate the lignin and then filter to create a cellulose-lignin slurry.
3. Evaporate off the water.

Now that’s a neat little chemistry test we should have done at school…

Why all the fuss?

This robust little experiment creates a bioplastic with high mechanical strength, excellent water stability, ultraviolet-light resistance and improved thermal stability. It’s also fully biodegradable, check out how it compares to PVC:

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How the new bioplastic stacks up against other credit Xia et al 2021

In this example they used woodchips, but the experiment can be done on any manner of lignocellulosic biomass source:

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Comparing different bioplastic products from different starting materials credit Xia et al 2021


We’ve already outlined some advantages to this process. However, from an enterprise point of view, perhaps the most critical question is cost. How expensive is this process? After all, if you can’t compete with everyday plastic prices, commercialising such tech is unrealistic.

Well, that’s the best thing about such a simple process: it’s dead cheap. The substrates and materials are readily available, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for in climate-tech solutions and products. We really enjoyed this research piece, and we’d like to thank the team over in the US who have shown us that simple can be, and often is beautiful.

Visualising the life cycle of the bioplastic credit Xia et al 2021

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