A meta-analysis of 30 life cycle assessments by the nova-Institute for innovation and ecology on behalf of the Proganic company shows unambiguously positive results for the widespread bio-based plastics PLA and PHA/PHB.
Since bio-based plastics have increasingly established themselves and been showing two-digit growth rates, there is a growing public discussion whether these new plastics that are based on biomass instead of mineral oil, really do have ecological advantages – or not. The Proganic GmbH & Co. KG company which exclusively relies on bio-based plastics and has already managed to place different product lines such as garden and household goods on the market, wanted to figure it out exactly and entrusted the nova-Institut (Hürth/Rhineland) with conducting a comprehensive meta-analysis of PLA and PHA/PHB, thus answering the question of ecological assessment based on the latest state of science. Oliver Schmid, managing director of Proganic: “More and more customers are interested in bio-based solutions, but only in those possessing distinct ecological advantages. We owe it to our customers to generate reliable data and make these available to them.”The Proganic® material used by Proganic consists of the bio-based polymers PLA and PHB as well as minerals and carnauba wax. So the nova-Institut in the Meta-LCA looked at polylactides (polylactic acid, PLA) and polyhydroxy fatty acids (polyhydroxyalkanoate, PHA, and especially polyhydroxybutyrate, PHB), both widespread bio-based plastics with a wide range of application.The use of non-renewable fossil raw materials is a central topic in current political debates: On the one hand, as a result of the use of these raw materials, according to scientific findings the emission of greenhouse gases leads to severe impacts on the global climate system with unpredicatble consequences for the world population. On the other hand, the depletion of fossil raw materials leads to rising raw material prices, economical dependencies and political unrests. That’s why customers increasingly put emphasis on buying ecologically and ethically acceptable products.
The production of the bio-based polymers PLA and PHA/PHB provides ecological advantages compared to the production of petrochemical plastics: The emission of greenhouse gases and also the use of fossil raw materials are definitely diminished. Therefore the substitution of petrochemical plastics with bio-based plastics yields positive impacts in the impact categories climate change and use of fossil raw materials – two criterions that are playing a major role in current political and public discussion. Michael Carus, co-author and managing director of nova-Institut, did express his surprise: “After the excited public debates of recent months we hadn’t expected such a clear result, the more so as bio-based plastics are still at the beginning of their development. So the meta-analysis not only shows the advantages already existing today, but also the substantial ecological potential as a result of further process optimisations.”