You have probably heard about “PLA beads” or “PLA biodegradable plastic”, but chances are you are still ambiguous about this type of plastic and how it is applied in daily life. Let’s learn about this environmentally friendly plastic with Xanh Vietnam.


PLA biodegradable plastic

Bioplastic includes 2 types: Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable

Biodegradable Bioplastic:

These plastics can completely decompose into CO2, H2O and humus in just a few months to a few years like PLA. And they are made from renewable materials such as starch (corn, potatoes, cassava, …), sugar (sugarcane, beetroots, …).

Non-biodegradable Bioplastic:

The components of these plastics have long decay time such as PE, PS, PET, PVC, etc. But they are made from renewable materials such as starch (corn, potatoes, cassava, …), sugar (sugarcane, beetroots,…).

What Is PLA Biodegradable Plastic?

PLA biodegradable plastic
What Is PLA Biodegradable Plastic?

PLA Biodegradable Plastic is a type of bioplastic which has ductile properties. This plastic is made from the natural ingredient of cornstarch. It can decompose naturally and be widely used to produce daily items.

Read more:
What are self-degradation products?
Eco-friendly Straws – The alternatives to Plastic Straws

How Is PLA Biodegradable Plastic Produced?

PLA Biodegradable Plastic is made from natural plant biomass. This material is fermented by microorganisms to produce lactic acid (C3H6O3) and finally synthesized into PLA (polylactic acid) beads – (C3H4O2)n. The PLA Biodegradable Plastic production process includes the following steps:

Step 1: Pretreatment of plant biomass material.

Step 2: Plant biomass is hydrolyzed by enzymes and then fermented to form soluble extract.

Step 3: The soluble extract of plant biomass is refined to form lactic acid.

Step 4: The amount of produced lactic acid will undergo a strict synthesis process to produce polylactic acid.

PLA Biodegradable Plastic Properties

Fusing point: from 175 oC to 185 oC

Intrinsic viscosity: 0.2 – 0.8 dl/g (Intrinsic viscosity is a parameter representing the length of the Polymer circuit). With this parameter, PLA biodegradable plastic is suitable for manufacturing a wide range of products.

Intrinsic viscosity parameters for product manufacture:

  • 0.6 dl/g: producing yarn.
  • 0.65 dl/g: producing thin film.
  • 0.76 – 0.84 dl/g: producing bottles and jars.
  • 0.85 dl/g: producing rope.

PLA plastic has fine gloss, tensile strength and resistance to processing solvents. It can be used to make various types of products, which is similar to other plastic materials on the market.

In addition, PLA plastic has a good permeability surface. Therefore, the microorganisms in nature can easily  penetrate to help the natural decomposition process of this plastic take place quickly. This is beneficial in terms of environmental protection. However, users need to pay attention to the hygiene of the products which are made from this plastic. Especially, you should not reuse them to store food, drinks,…

Why Is PLA Biodegradable Plastic Widely Used?

A corn - PLA biodegradable plastic
Why is PLA Plastic widely used?

PLA plastic beads are made from cornstarch – a natural material with high regeneration and biodegradability, totally safe for users’ health and eco-friendly. PLA plastic meets the properties of other common plastics and has an intrinsic viscosity from 0.2 – 0.8 dl/g. Perfectly suited to the production of daily appliances and medical instruments. For instance: production of disposable infusion equipment, all kinds of surgical sutures, drug distribution packages, etc. 

This plastic is a renewable material. After use, they can be decomposed by microorganisms, through a process of industrial biodegradation, into biomass that can be used as fertilizer for plants. 

The surface of PLA plastic has magnificent permeability properties, creating favorable conditions for microorganisms to promote the natural decomposition process. Under the right conditions, PLA plastic can decompose into CO2, water and biological humus by the action of microorganisms. These substances do not pollute the environment and are good for arable land. 

When disposing of products which are made from PLA beads by combustion method, this plastic will not produce volatile toxic gases like other traditional plastics. Guaranteeing no environmental pollution.

The natural decomposition time of PLA plastic is very short, only taking a few months to several years. When other traditional plastics need more than 100 years. Thus, this plastic offers many positive effects on protecting the environment.

What Are The Limitations Of PLA Biodegradable Plastic?

A Corn Field for PLA biodegradable plastic
A Corn Field

The production of PLA plastic is highly dependent on the material supply areas. The plastic plants need to be located near material areas such as large corn fields. Additionally, PLA plastic can only decompose through the industrial biodegradation process. It requires temperature conditions, microorganisms, … to meet certain standards.

If PLA plastic is not handled properly, it can be mistakenly mixed with recycled materials, affecting the quality of post-recycled products.

PLA plastic is in a shortage of supply due to the lack of industrial scale factories. Furthermore, producing PLA plastic requires high technology and many costs, so the price of this plastic will be higher than petroleum-derived plastics such as PET, PVC, PP, and so forth.

The Applications Of PLA Bioplastics

PLA plastic is used in many fields of life because they are not harmful to the health of users.

Applications in tissue culture techniques

Tissue culture helps living cells connect to the frame system using biological materials, helping these living cells grow and regenerate living tissue.

PLA plastic is one of the biological materials capable of replacing living tissue. It is particularly useful in organ regeneration and transplantation.

PLA products have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human clinical applications. This material has been successfully tested to regenerate bone tissue, cartilage, heart valves, etc.

Applications in drug transmission material

PLA bioplastic is used in drug transmission materials due to their outstanding properties such as: good biological compatibility, biodegradability, durability, high solubility in organic solvents and good heat treatment.

PLA plastic is used to transmit drugs for many diseases such as tetanus, type 2 diabetes, cancer, etc.

In addition, the modified PLA plastic is also used in the manufacture of implant products, absorbable sutures, pins, 1-time infusion instruments,… or in scar treatment.

Applications in automobile manufacturing

PLA plastic is widely used by car manufacturers:

Toyota has combined PLA and Kenaf-based fiber composite to produce spare tires, seats, floor mats, etc.

Ford uses PLA-based composite to make car arches, floor mats, etc.

Mitsubishi has used PLA fiber in combination with Nylon 6 (C6H11NO)n to make floor mats.

Fiat Company (Italy) has used PLA plastic to make automotive parts.

Applications in agriculture

In agriculture, PLA resins are used to produce biological film. This film helps speed up ripening of fruits before harvest, keeps fertilizer, moisture, prevents the growth of fungi, weeds, impacts of insects on crops, and allows plants cope with weather changes.

In addition, PLA plastic is also used to make tomato, flower pots lacing wire and many other agricultural applications.

Applications in electronics

PLA biodegradable plastic is widely used in electronics such as:

Mitsubishi fabricated thermostable PLA plastic for the production of music player cases.

NEC Corp (Japan) uses PLA-based composite in combination with Kenaf to produce phone covers and laptop dummy plugs, etc.

Fujitsu uses PLA’s composite to make household fire-fighting equipment and computer frame systems.

Samsung uses PLA/Polycarbonate bisphenol A (PC) to produce computer cases and phone cases.

In addition, PLA plastic is also used for 3D printing, making medicine bottles, etc.

Applications in packaging production

Modified PLA plastic is used to produce trays, food containers, plates, glasses, spoons, etc.

When modified PLA is combined with bentonite and coated with microcrystalline cellulose and silicate, it can resist UV and visible spectrum (visible light), and be used to produce food storage packaging.

Due to its antibacterial properties, PLA plastic bags are suitable for preserving raw food such as vegetables, tubers, meat, fish, etc.

All of the above are interesting realities about PLA Biodegradable Plastic. With outstanding features, especially added safety for the health of users and environmentally friendly, this plastic is widely used in our daily lives.


All You Need To Know About PLA Biodegradable Plastic


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