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Q: What are the advantages of polylactic acid in addition to biodegradability?

Q: What are the advantages of polylactic acid in addition to biodegradability?

2019-10-21

A: Polylactic acid is a relatively mature and widely used fully biodegradable compostable plastic. In addition to the biodegradable properties, this material has several different features.

One of the important characteristics is that polylactic acid is a safer material for food contact. Its monomer is lactic acid, lactic acid is a food additive, and lactic acid is present in yogurt, cosmetics or condiments. Its own level of safety is safer than that made with petroleum monomers. Moreover, polylactic acid was used as a medical material in the 1960s and 1970s for surgical sutures, fixation of bone rods, etc., and later, because of technological breakthroughs and reduced costs, it entered the ranks of civilian use.

Second, polylactic acid is a biobased material derived from plants. The more commonly used raw materials are corn, cassava and sucrose. The corn, cassava and other crops are extracted into starch, fermented into lactic acid, and then chemically polymerized into polylactic acid, which is a relatively clear material for bio-based materials.

Again, the polylactic acid material is low in carbonity. The so-called low carbon refers to the concept of relatively low carbon dioxide consumption or release. For example, a material, in the whole life cycle from its production to demise, from monomer, polymerization, transportation, storage to use, the total amount of carbon dioxide absorbed and emitted is combined, by comparison, if it is carbon dioxide in plastic materials. The relatively low total emissions, we call it low carbon materials.

Taking polylactic acid as an example, from the start of corn or cassava cultivation, to the process of glucose sugar extraction, lactic acid fermentation, polylactic acid polymerization, and processing of polylactic acid products, the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions is one kilogram of polylactic acid film. The amount of carbon dioxide released is about 1.274 kg. To make a comparison, make a kilogram of PET material mineral water bottle, which will emit 4 kg of carbon dioxide. A kilogram of PP material shampoo bottle is produced to discharge 2.5 kg.

Finally, the degradation composting characteristics of polylactic acid materials. In a composting environment, it can degrade 100% of carbon dioxide and water without polluting the environment. In the lab, we have some clear data, such as 0.3 mm thick polylactic acid tablets, which are invisible to the naked eye after six weeks. Of course, it does not mean that it is not equal to degradation. It is not completely degradable in six weeks and takes time.


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