What is PBAT and PLA?

What is PBAT and PLA?

PBAT (Polybutylene Adipate Terephthalate) and PLA (Polylactic Acid) are types of compostable plastics each with their own benefits for the environment. At Simply Bio we combined these two components in order to develop a product with maximum compostability. 
What is PBAT?

PBAT is a fossil-based polymer, and therefore is not considered a renewable source. 
That said, PBAT is incredibly compostable. It is capable of breaking down completely when buried in soil through actions of microorganisms, such as fungi, algae and bacteria, and it does not release methane or toxic residues at all. Despite the fact that PBAT is made of a non-renewable source, it is still a lot better than traditional plastic. This is because PBAT is designed to be fully compostable due to the presence of butylene adipate groups, while traditional plastic is designed to last as long as possible. In fact, PBAT was developed as part of the solution to combating plastic pollution.

PBAT is used in a variety of applications, including trash bags, packaging materials, and food containers. It is a strong and flexible material that can be molded and shaped into a variety of forms. It is typically used in combination with other compostable plastics, such as starch or cellulose, to create a material that is compostable.

What is PLA?

PLA is plant-based and is made up of renewable resources, such as corn starch or sugarcane, and can break down into natural substances when disposed of in the right conditions. It is a form of polyester that is made of lactic acid and lactide produced by fermentation of a carbohydrate source under controlled conditions. The carbohydrate source could be corn starch, sugarcane, or cassava.

PLA is currently one of the most used bioplastics in the world. It is commonly used in food packaging, disposable cups and cutlery, and other single-use products. It is a strong and rigid material that can be molded and shaped into a variety of forms. It is also resistant to heat and moisture, which makes it suitable for use in food packaging.

PLA is fully compostable in the controlled environment of a commercial composting facility. Many eco-friendly products available in the market today are made of PLA and are claimed by the businesses to be fully home compostable. This is only partially true, as PLA requires specific conditions (such as moisture and temperature) to properly compost. PLA is home compostable, only if your home compost is able to reach a temperature of 60°C. This is achievable through hot composting. 

Despite its advantages of being renewable and compostable, do be mindful that if PLA is in a natural environment or landfill, it contributes to plastic pollution. As mentioned above, PLA can only compost under specific conditions. The length of time required for PLA to break down outside of a composting environment remains debatable, as there as some articles that suggest it takes 80 years, while some suggests hundreds of years. 

Why combine PBAT and PLA?

PBAT is designed to break down fast - even faster than organics, such as banana skin (interesting, I know!). Ironically, the higher the plant-based content, the longer it takes to compost. So, PBAT is mixed with PLA to increase the speed of composting. 

Further, PLA on its own is a rigid and brittle material. PBAT is added to PLA to increase the flexibility and strength of the overall material, to make it suitable for its purposes.

Both PBAT and PLA are considered environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional plastics, as they can break down into natural substances when disposed of in the right conditions. However, it is important to note that compostable plastics are not a complete solution to the problem of plastic waste, and it is still important to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible.
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