The Path to Drawdown: Bioplastics
Almost all of the plastic produced each year is made from fossil fuels. Fortunately, some 90% of the plastics being made today can instead be made from plants.
Bioplastics can be made from the cellulose contained in the cell walls of potatoes, sugarcane, tree bark, and algae. They can also be manufactured from chitin that comes from the shells and exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. These natural polymers are similar to the chainlike polymers that give plastics their malleability, but the resulting bioplastics are often biodegradable and emit fewer greenhouse gases than petro-plastics.
Today, aside from the need to expand their production, the challenge for bioplastics is the difficulty of separating them from other waste and appropriate processing. If bioplastics can’t biodegrade but instead end up in landfills, they can’t fulfil their promise as a solution to climate change.
Project Drawdown estimates that, to stay under 1.5°C of global warming by the end of the century, bioplastics need to expand to account for 46% of all plastics being produced in 2050. If the world can achieve this, bioplastics can help avoid 3.8 gigatons of CO2e between 2020 and 2050.