Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry

Bio-based Polymers: A Mini Review


  • Xiang Yu CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society


Most synthetic polymers are derived from fossil fuel resources, whose scarcity and imbalanced global distribution can affect plastics producers. Bio-based polymers, obtained from renewable biomass resources, have received wide attention in the past two decades. Bioplastics formulated using bio-based polymers are a promising sustainable alternative to oil-based plastics, and may particularly benefit countries that are heavily dependent on foreign oil. This paper provides a brief overview of the three types of bio-based polymers, discusses the strengths and limitations of each type, highlights the latest research progresses, and evaluates recent trends in related scientific publications. The annual publication volumes of most bio-based polymers analyzed share the common pattern of steady growths, followed by stabilization or declines starting from the mid-2010s. The trends may be ascribed to changes in the prices of fossil fuel-based plastics, which in turn reflect the fluctuations in crude oil prices. Without strong financial support or technological breakthroughs, the manufacture of bioplastics is still too costly to compete against oil-based materials. Aside from economic challenges, bio-based polymers often face skepticism from the public, likely a result of misconceptions. This review also aims at clarifying some of the confusions and helping raise public awareness of bio-based polymers’ importance to sustainability.


Thumbnail image of biobased polymers draft-04122022.pdf