Anxious to contribute to the safeguarding of the environment and boosted by the need to find alternative solutions to products derived from oil, several university laboratories and solicitous companies are working on the development of such materials, although results seem still a little tenuous, undoubtedly due to the high costs of manufacturing (costs prove to be 3 to 4 times higher than for usual plastic).
Biomaterials are manufactured from cereal products and residues (starch, gluten...), from oilseeds and oilseed crops as well as from fibrous plants (cellulose). Nowadays, a number of bioplastics are manufactured. These materials differ little from current plastics (although slightly less efficient) and are 100% biodegradable. There is still a need, however, for recovery units of this type of waste…
The process consists in extracting acid molecules from sugars, starch or oils, and then polymerizing them to form long chains.
By combining vegetable fibres with polymers (car plastic containing starch strengthened by fibres of hemp or flax…), or by developing new products for the building trade (‘breeze blocks” made of hemp, road surfacing), valuable composite materials can be created.
Biomolecules would replace products resulting from synthetic organic chemistry with environmentally-friendly molecules (“green” surfactants from rape…).
Vegetable oils can transformed into lubricants, paints, inks or biodegradable and nontoxic detergents.
There appear to be many promising plant chemistry solutions.