Soybeans for Fibers and Films
Robina Hogan, United Soybean Board
Biopolymers are polymers produced by living organisms. Starch, cellulose, proteins, peptides are all examples of biopolymers, in which the monomeric units, respectively, are sugars, amino acids and nucleotides. Cellulose is both the most common biopolymer and the most common organic compound on Earth. About 33 percent of all plant matter is cellulose.
Some biopolymers can be used to make plastics, replacing the need for polystyrene or polyethylene based plastics. Biopolymers are renewable, because they are made from plant materials which can be grown year on year indefinitely.
Therefore, the use of biopolymers can create a sustainable industry. In contrast, the feedstocks for polymers derived from petrochemicals will eventually run out. Biopolymers, in addition have the potential to cut carbon emissions and reduce CO2 quantities in the atmosphere, because the CO2 released when they degrade can be reabsorbed by crops grown to
replace them, making them close to carbon neutral.
Some biopolymers are biodegradable because they are broken down into CO2 and water by microorganisms. Also, some of these biodegradable biopolymers are compostable because they can be put into an industrial composting process and will break down by 90% within 6 months.