Environmental impact of bioplastic use: A review

Elsevier, Heliyon, Volume 7, September 2021
Atiwesh G., Mikhael A., Parrish C.C., Banoub J., Le T.A.T.

Throughout their lifecycle, petroleum-based plastics are associated with many environmental problems, including greenhouse gas emissions, persistence in marine and terrestrial environments, pollution, etc. On the other hand, bioplastics form a rapidly growing class of polymeric materials that are commonly presented as alternatives to conventional petroleum-based plastics. However, bioplastics also have been linked to important environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and unfavorable land use change, making it necessary to evaluate the true impact of bioplastic use on the environment. Still, while many reviews discuss bioplastics, few comprehensively and simultaneously address the positives and negatives of bioplastic use for the environment. The primary focus of the present review article is to address this gap in present research. To this end, this review addresses the following questions: (1) what are the different types of bioplastics that are currently in commercial use or under development in the industry; (2) are bioplastics truly good for the environment; and (3) how can we better resolve the controversial impact of bioplastics on the environment? Overall, studies discussed in this review article show that the harms associated with bioplastics are less severe as compared to conventional plastics. Moreover, as new types of bioplastics are developed, it becomes important that future studies conduct thorough life cycle and land use change analyses to confirm the eco-friendliness of these new materials. Such studies will help policymakers to determine whether the use of new-generation bioplastics is indeed beneficial to the environment.