Handbook of
Polymers2nd Ed.

A complete guide to the
subject of biodegradable

“The great problem of packaging, which every experienced chemist knows, was well known to God Almighty, who solved it brilliantly, as he is wont to, with cellular membranes, eggshells, the multiple peel of oranges, and our own skins, because after all we too are liquids. Now, at that time there did not exist polyethylene, which would have suited me perfectly since it is flexible, light, and splendidly impermeable: but it is also a bit too incorruptible, and not by chance God Almighty himself, although he is a master of polymerization, abstained from patenting it: He does not like incorruptible things.”

Primo Levi, The Periodic Table, 1975

The Handbook of Biodegradable Polymers, published by Smithers Rapra reviews the most important achievements and the programmes and approaches of institutions, the private sector and universities in the development of biodegradable polymers, and explores their potential in depth. It is edited by Catia Bastioli and contains contributions from international and influential specialists and researchers of biodegradable polymers and bioplastics.

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The volume covers: the most relevant biodegradable polymers of renewable and non-renewable origin; the current business situation; a review of the main studies on their environmental impact and a critical analysis of the methodologies involved; the potential of new areas such as biocatalysis in the development of new renewable building blocks for biodegradable polymers; the expansion of the biorefinery concept towards integrated biorefineries; the main policy and funding initiatives recently undertaken at EU level to foster the innovation capacity in Europe and to favour the market entry of innovative biobased and biodegradable products. It also takes into consideration aspects related to the biodegradation of these polymers in different environments and the related standards and case studies (including the interactions of biodegradable items with different anaerobic digestion technologies), showing their use in helping to solve specific solid waste problems.

Catia Bastioli is the CEO of Novamont, an industrial concern that over time she has turned from a research centre into a reference company in the field of bioplastics and products from renewable sources. She is the author of many scientific and academic articles and contributions to international books and magazines about chemistry from renewable sources, bioplastics and biorefineries which have been published in international journals, proceedings of international conferences and books. She is also the inventor of around 80 patent families in the sector of synthetic and natural polymers and transformation processes of renewable raw materials. Her numerous prizes include the “European Inventor of the Year 2007” award from the European Patent Office and the European Commission for her inventions related to starch-based bioplastics between 1991 and 2001.

What the Authors are saying

Maarten van der Zee
Ines Fritz
Bruno De Wilde
Michel Vert
Stéphane Guilbert
Ramani Narayan
Thomas Hirth
Maurizio Fieschi
Ugo Pretato
Fernanda Farachi
Giulia Bettas
Francesco Degli Innocenti
Paolo Magistrali
Sebastià Gestí Garcia
Piero Bellofiore
Christian Garaffa
Tiziana Milizia
Enzo Favoino

Guide for Readers

What is the aim of this Handbook?

The ultimate aim of the book is to increase knowledge and cultivate a change in the perception of biodegradable polymers: a change which is evident by simply considering the trends from 1989 to 2012 in the fields of ‘biodegradable’ (+2,800% for scientific literature and +1,100% for the number of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) patents, European (EP) and United States (US) patents) and ‘biodegradable plastics’ (+1,400% for scientific literature and +4,200% for the number of WO, EP and US patents). Biodegradable plastics are effectively a growing niche market with an annual rate of between 20-30% in the last 10 years in regions where composting infrastructures are well developed and the separate collection of organic waste is well established.

Nowadays, Biodegradable Polymers provide an opportunity to redesign the applications of conventional plastics and create a solution for serious environmental issues such as the contamination of the natural environment, the decreasing availability of landfill space and the problems connected to the separate collection of organic waste.

Who should read this book?

The Handbook is intended for those who are new to the subject and those who already have existing knowledge in the field of biodegradable polymers. This includes all those who may play a part in shaping the emergence and consolidate the use of new biodegradable materials. Whether decision makers, advisors, lobbyists, researchers, entrepreneurs or interested non-specialists, the Handbook could reach a wide readership and stimulate a broader interest in the subject of emerging biodegradable materials as a solution to environmental problems.

Why does the Handbook focus
on biodegradable polymers?

The durability of conventional plastics represents a serious environmental drawback when these materials are used in applications with little probability of recycling, when recycling may be too expensive or when plastic itself has a high probability of contaminating the natural environment or organic waste.

Biodegradable polymers from both natural and chemical resources could represent not only a simple substitute for traditional plastics but also an answer to environmental problems in a number of applications, by focusing on the efficient use of resources and tending towards the elimination of waste, transforming local issues into business opportunities and developing a systemic vision to counterbalance the management culture that has contributed to the current dissipative growth model.

Moreover, the opportunity to utilise renewable raw materials (RRM) in the production of some of these biodegradable polymers and to reduce the dependency on foreign petroleum resources, along with the exploitation of new functional properties in comparison with traditional plastics, has significant benefits. Besides biodegradability, the technical developments made in the research process could have significant advantages for end consumers as well and could help to solve technical, economic and environmental issues in specific market areas.

Table of Contents