Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

In the bag?

A little while ago I read that the French firm J&M Plast, part of the European packaging group Sphere, was turning to potato starch to make a new biodegradable plastic material for bin bags (unsurprisingly called ‘Bioplast’). L’Usine Nouvelle reports on it here – the link is in French but you’ll find an English version on Matthieu Fossoux’s blog. Biodegradable polymers are now widely investigated – starch-based polymers, polylactic acids (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), naturally produced by bacteria, being among the most promising.

Meanwhile, retailers are increasingly switching to a “pay per bag” policy. This has proved to be very effective in the past, with a reduction by 90% in plastic bag consumption in the Republic of Ireland, where customers have been charged per bag since 2002. The Swedish furniture manufacturer Ikea has also adopted a similar policy in the UK, and is reporting a massive 95% drop since last June. Ikea is now extending this scheme to the US and all the profits (with a limit of $1,750,000 within 12 months) are to be donated to the non-profit organization American Forests to plant trees and offset carbon dioxide emissions.

While too many shops still routinely give out plastic bags, these reports are certainly encouraging – and the great news is: we can all contribute.


Anne Pichon (Intern, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery)


  1. Report this comment

    Uncle Al said:

    If you want biodegradable polyethylene, add carbonyl groups (Norrish-type photochemistry). You are co-polymerizing to LLDP anyway.

    Agriculture plus processing is an insanely expensive, messy, and inefficient way to make bulk chemical commodities. One imagines hunter-gatherer Enviro-whiners threw hissy fits over agriculture and animal husbandry (sustained to this day).

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    Andrew Sun said:

    What is concerned is not only biodegradability but also the subsequent environmental effects of the degradation products. PLA is said to degrade into CO2 and H2O.

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    matthieu fossoux said:

    Good evening!

    I came here by chance and fell on my name in this post. what an incredible surprise!!

    Thank you for this link.