The first-ever plastic used by human beings was bio-based and had natural origins. Bioplastics are deviants of plastic, whose raw materials range from renewable biomass sources to sugar derivatives. For instance, polylactic acid is acquired from corn. In theory, it can replace petroleum-derived plastics, but the cost and execution pose a threat to the idea.
Some bioplastics are compostable and recyclable, and some are hard to break down, taking years to decompose. Different types of bioplastics find their applications in different sectors. These are cellulose-based, organic-based, aliphatic-based, starch-based, etc. Bioplastics are used in packaging, bags, bottles, plastic piping, car insulation, etc.
Plastics have always had a bad reputation as one of the many culprits of environmental degradation. At the same time, the importance of plastics cannot be ruled out because of their properties like low cost, versatility, and water resistance.
Plastics are synthetic ductile materials commonly acquired from petrochemicals. Different types of plastics include Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET), Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Polystyrene or Styrofoam (PS), etc.
Plastics for Automotive: Role & Benefits
The automotive sector utilizes plastic materials based on appearance, rigidity, weight, cost, and resistance. The benefit of these types of plastics is securing the place of the global plastics market in the automotive industry.
There are various types and products of bioplastics used extensively in the automotive sector. For instance, polyethylene (PE) is a rigid, ductile, and low strength product, which is the most used plastic across the world. It is a good electric insulator with excellent chemical resistance and is primarily used in moisture-resistant areas. In the automotive sector, its major utilization is found in car bodies and electric insulation.
Plastics are lightweight, which is the main reason for their use as a substitute for metals. When choosing the most resource-efficient plastics, bioplastics are increasingly preferred, owing to their contribution to reduced carbon dioxide emissions and efficient energy use. If lightness is the reason for plastics to thrive, then the tremendous potential exhibited by bioplastics for minimizing environmental impact is the deciding factor for their place in the sector.
Bioplastics remain unaffected by volatile energy markets as compared to their petrochemical counterparts. Some big names in the automotive industry have made prominent use of bioplastics. For instance, Mercedes Benz-A has used a bio-based polyamide, which is acquired from castor oil plants. Also, some Ford doors are made from bioplastics. Further, Toyota Motor Group claimed to have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 20% using bioplastics.
The automotive sector has been forever looking for alternative resources since it faces challenges like limited fossil resources, increasing demands for lightweight vehicles, expensive raw materials, etc. Although most common products are acquired from petrochemicals, dispersibility hinders the industry. Moreover, the need for bioplastics is rising owing to the sophisticated polymers, products, versatility, and applications and is expected to continue in the coming decades.
The current trend and concern regarding any industry across the world are placed within an environmental context. From stringent government regulations to growing awareness among global citizens worldwide, environmental concerns have become too ubiquitous to be ignored. In such a case, bioplastics are evaluated to gain complete traction in the global automotive plastics market.