Mater-bi starch-based materials : present situation and future perspectives

The environmental impact related to the emissions of gases with green-house effect and the management of solid waste disposal with regard to the decreasing availability of landfills, the litter problem and the pollution of the marine environment became very urgent in the last decade.

An obliged approach to solve the problem is: the valorisation of waste as a resource through its separation into specific fractions, to be transformed into new products with a certain market value; and the engineering of new materials with lower environmental impact, with particular attention to the energy consumption and the emissions in the atmosphere.

Biodegradable polymers constitute a new family of polymers designed to be degraded by living organisms. They offer a possible alternative to traditional non-biodegradable polymers when recycling is impractical or not economical, and they can be composted together with food and yard waste [1,2].

Biodegradable materials can be engineered to reduce the environmental impact in terms of emissions. Mater-Bi starch-based materials, as an example, offer an ideal combination of properties showing:
- complete biodegradability and compostability according to existing standards [3-5]
- significant contribution in terms of environmental impact, particularly with respect to CO2 emissions and
energy consumption in comparison with traditional materials in specific uses;
- in use performances and processibility similar to traditional plastics.

This paper reviews the main in-use properties and biodegradation behaviour of Mater-Bi products currently available in the market, the new developments and a case study for the assessment of the environmental impact of Mater-Bi bags for the separate collection of the organic waste in comparison with traditional polyethylene and paper bags.

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