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The Role of Bioplastics in Aerospace Sustainability

Published date: 01 Nov 2023

Plastic materials are used in almost each and every application, and it is no secret that they have negative environmental effects that arise from the usage of petroleum during their manufacturing. That was the reason Bioplastics gained rapid growth in its use globally due to being a sustainable material, as they of course tend to reduce the consumption of petroleum in the manufacturing process of plastic. Also, Bioplastics can be made from natural resources such as starches and vegetable oils. In order to encourage sustainable growth in the aviation sector while preserving efficient maintenance facilities, practices, and flight operations, this paper offers a balanced assessment of the viability of incorporating bioplastics.

Bioplastics as Sustainable Materials in Aircraft

Airliners must adhere to both business criteria and environmental regulations. This article examines the possibility of using bioplastics as a compromise material to maintain practical and effective flight operations and maintenance facilities while achieving sustainable growth in the aviation sector. Through renewable source, biodegradability, and weight reduction, bioplastics provide a viable compromise for reducing the numerous negative consequences of petrochemical materials while simultaneously lowering fuel costs [1].

Some Bioplastic materials were already used in different aircraft components. They are used in structural and non-structural components, thermal insulative material, acoustic insulative material, in-cabin decoration components, and others. The two bioplastic materials mostly used in the aerospace industry are the flax fiber reinforced polymers (FFRP) and the mycelium-based composites.

Integration of Bioplastics in the Aerospace Industry

The usage of Bioplastics to replace structural components may not be easy, and it forms a challenge that is daunting to overcome. Bioplastics can have higher potential to be integrated in the aerospace industry through the non-structural components, packaging and disposable items.

For the non-structural components, non-renewable plastics were usually used in components such as cabin seats, insulation, floor & ceiling panels, overhead bins and decorative panels. These non-structural items have a very strong potential to be replaced by bioplastic materials.

For the packaging, components, tools, and equipment are frequently bundled in single-use, nonrenewable plastics when they are supplied to maintenance facilities for usage on a daily basis. A number of businesses in the food, automobile, and apparel industries have already embraced alternative green packaging because of its ability to reduce environmental problems.

For disposable items, we are left with a number of applications in both maintenance facilities (such as discharged bottles and cartridges) and commercial applications (such as cups, plates, cutlery, food packaging, bin bags, and drink bottles) after taking into account the numerous disposable items used in the aviation industry's commercial and maintenance sectors. All of these objects have a single, straightforward purpose, but they will languish in landfills for a very long time. PLA is one of the options since it makes ecologically friendly products and is known as the bottle material of choice for the green market [1].

Carbon Footprint Reduction and Environmental effects

In comparison to traditional plastics, biobased polymers offer the distinct benefit of lowering reliance on finite fossil fuel resources and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. During their development, plants absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). By using these plants (renewable biomass) to make biobased polymers, CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere and stored for the duration of the product's life. If the material is recycled, the carbon fixation (carbon sink) can last much longer.

Although the idea of bioplastics is enticing, how sustainable are these substances? According to studies [1], bioplastics emit fewer greenhouse gases than conventional plastics because the carbon dioxide they absorb during growth offsets the net increase in emissions they cause when they decompose. By 2025, it is anticipated that the amount of petroleum used to produce plastic would have decreased by 15-20% due to the use of bioplastics, which are made from plants.

Bioplastics proved to be sustainable due to three main reasons: First, most bioplastics have a lower carbon footprint than their fossil fuel-based equivalents because they are made primarily or entirely from plants, such as corn, sugarcane, or other sources of biomass. Second, bioplastics make it easier to compost, keeping food scraps, grass clippings, and other organic waste out of the trash. Third, certain bioplastic (but not all) are completely compatible with the system for recycling plastic that already exists.

Improved End-of-Life Scenarios

Bioplastics are a diverse group of materials with a wide range of unique characteristics. Integrated recycling streams can mechanically recycle drop-in solutions like biobased PE or biobased PET. Plastics that are biodegradable and compostable can be recycled naturally using anaerobic digestion and industrial composting. Due to their biobased nature, all bioplastics may also be processed in recovery streams to provide sustainable energy by incineration. Similar to conventional plastics, the type of product, the type of bioplastics material used, as well as the quantities and recycling and recovery techniques available, all affect how bioplastics trash is recovered.

Future Trends

As demand for bioplastics rises and innovation develops, the market for these materials is expanding dramatically. Companies are investing in research and development to lower their plastic waste footprints as a result of the catastrophic environmental catastrophe the world is now experiencing, which makes bioplastics a compelling alternative. Every year, more fossil-based plastic components in the aerospace industry are being replaced with bioplastic components. Based on current trends, the use of bioplastics in the aviation sector is anticipated to rise by over 15% over the next five years.


(1) A. BARRETT, "Bioplastics In Aerospatial Applications," Bioplastic News, 2019.

(2) K. Davies, "The Integration of Bioplastics into the," University of South Wales, 2022.

(3) J. Bachmann, " Environmental analysis of innovative sustainable composites with potential use in aviation sector – A life cycle assessment review," Springer, 2017. 



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