Chemical company BASF manufactures two biodegradable plastics, Ecoflex and Ecovio, which are primarily marketed in Europe and are used for manufacturing of plastic garbage bags. Ecoflex is actually a petroleum-based aliphatic-aromatic copolyester designed to be added to other polymers such as PLA to impart greater flexibility. Ecovio is a blend of PLA and Ecoflex. In a report from BASF, Andreas Künkel, head of research for biopolymers at the company, explains BASF’s rationale for using a petroleum-based material in its formulation:
Both components of Ecovio — Ecoflex and polylactic acid — are biodegradable. For a material to be biodegradable, it is unimportant whether the feedstock is plant- or petroleum-based. What matters is the structure of the molecules. Because this synthetic polymer has been engineered for outstanding biodegradability, microorganisms can easily digest it.
A report from ICIS says BASF estimates demand for biodegradable and bio-based plastics to grow 20 to 30 percent during the next few years because of “rising consumer demand, new environmental regulations and the development of new technologies and applications.” The company sees applications for its bioplastics in such products as paper cups, shrink films and shopping bags.