Biopolymers applied to packaging: A brief literature review on their impact on sustainability


  • Harrison L Corrêa Universidade Federal do Paraná



The replacement of fossil raw materials by renewable alternatives is imperative. Renewable, biodegradable, and compostable polymers are options to be developed and adopted. Embedded in this concept, the present study evaluates whether biopolymers are sustainable alternatives to replace traditional polymers used in packaging, such as polyethylene. To that end, a systematic literature review (SLR) was carried out on biopolymers applied to packaging, with an analysis of its impacts. Three sustainability criteria were adopted: a) Criteria for Developing Sustainable Packaging; b) Goals of Sustainable Development; and c) Circular Economy Criteria. The Methodology Section presents the state of the art of potential polymers for packaging and their characteristics vis-à-vis the evaluation criteria adopted based on the SLR. Through data collection, it was observed that advanced obtaining techniques enable polymers economically and that, environmentally speaking, there is a positive consensus about some types of those materials. However, technological maturity and productive scale capacity are necessary to reduce costs in a competitive scenario with conventional polymers.


packaging; biopolymers; sustainability; circular economy


[1] ASSOCIAÇÃO BRASILEIRA DE BIOINOVAÇÃO, ABBI. A bioeconomia. São Paulo, 2019. Disponível em Acessado em 11 set. de 2019.

[2] ASSOCIAÇÃO BRASILEIRA DE NORMAS TÉCNICAS. NBR ISO 14040:Gestão ambiental: avaliação do ciclo de vida –princípios e estrutura. Rio de Janeiro, 2001.

[3] BURGESS, S. K. et al. Chain mobility, thermal, and mechanical properties of poly(ethylene furanoate) compared to poly(ethylene terephthalate). Macromolecules 47, 1383–1391, 2014.

[4] CARUS, M. Agricultural resources for bioplastics. Bioplastics Magazine, pp. 44–46, 2011.

[5] CASTRO-AGUIRRE, E. et al. Poly(lactic acid)-Mass production, processing, industrial applications, and end of life. ADVANCED DRUG DELIVERY REVIEWS, v. 107, n. SI, p. 333–366, 2016.

[6] CHEN, G. Q. & PATEL, M. K. Plastics derived from biological sources: present and future: a technical and environmental review. Chem. Rev. 112, 2082–2099, 2012.

[7] CHEN, G.Q. A microbial polyhydroxyalkonoates (PHA) based bio and materials industry. Chemical Society Reviews 2009, 56(4):584-606.

[8] CHEN, Guo-Qiang, ALBERTSSON, Ann-Christine. Polyhydroxyalkanoates and Other Biopolymers. Biomacromolecules 2019, 20 (9), 3211-3212.

[9] CHOI, S., CHO, I.,J., LEE, Y., KIM, Y. KIM, K., LEE, S.Y. Bacterial Polyesters: Microbial Polyhydroxyalkanoates and Nonnatural Polyesters. Advanced Matterials 2020: 1907138.

[10] COLTRO, L. (ORG.). Avaliação do ciclo de vida como instrumento de gestão. 75 p. Campinas: CETEA/ITAL, 2007. ISBN 978-85-7029-083-0. Disponível em Acessado em 24 ago. 2019.

[11] CORBION. Corbion Purac successfully develops PLA resin from second generation feedstocks. Corbion, 2015.

[12] D’AMATO, D. et al. Towards sustainability? Forest-based circular bioeconomy business models in Finnish SMEs. Forest Policy and Economics, n. December, p. 101848, 2018.

[13] DE BAKKER, E. et al. Actors and network activities in the bioeconomy: Reflections on guidelines for participatory approaches. BioSTEP Deliverable 2.4, 2016.

[14] DELIDOVICH, I. et al. Alternative monomers based on lignocellulose and their use for polymer production. Chem. Rev. 116, 1540–1599, 2016.

[15] DÍAZ-PEDRAZA, A., PIÑEROS-CASTRO, Y., ORTEGA-TORO, R. Bi-layer materials based on thermoplastic corn starch, polylactic acid and modified polypropylene. Revista Mexicana de Ingeniería Química 2020, 19(1):323-331.

[16] EC, EUROPEAN COMISSION. Directive 2008/98/EC on waste (Waste Framework Directive). Disponível em Acessado em 14/03/2020. Brussels, 2008.

[17] EERHART, A. J. J. E., FAAIJ, A. P. C. & PATEL, M. K. Replacing fossil based PET with biobased PEF; process analysis, energy and GHG balance. Energy Environ. Sci. 5, 6407–6422, 2012.

[18] EMBLEM, A.; EMBLEM, H.; Packaging technology: Fundamentals, materials and processes. WoodHead Publishing. Cambridge, 2012.

[19] EPA, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY. Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures: 2013. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2015.

[20] ESTRADA-MONJE, A., ANDREU-DÍAZ, J.M., CRUZ-SALGADO, J. P. LDPE/Nano-TiO2 films with antibacterial properties induced by ultrasound. Revista Mexicana de Ingienería Química 2016, 15(3):953-960.

[21] EUROPEN. The European Organization for Packaging and Environment. Packaging in the Sustainability Agenda: a guide for corporate decision makers. ECR Europe. Brussels, Belgium, 2009.

[22] FERREIRA, F. V. et al. How do cellulose nanocrystals affect the overall properties of biodegradable polymer nanocomposites: A comprehensive review. EUROPEAN POLYMER JOURNAL, v. 108, p. 274–285, 2018.

[23] GALBIS, J. A. et al. Synthetic polymers from sugar-based monomers. Chem. Rev. 116, 1600–1636, 2016.

[24] GEYER, R. et al. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Sci. Adv. 3, e17007825, 2017.

[25] GROOT, W. J.; BORÉN, T. Life cycle assessment of the manufacture of lactide and PLA biopolymers from sugarcane in Thailand. Int. J. Life Cycle Assess. 15, 970–984, 2010.

[26] HANIFFA, M. A. C. M. et al. Review of Bionanocomposite Coating Films and Their Applications. POLYMERS, v. 8, n. 7, jul. 2016.

[27] HE, F. et al. Enzyme-catalyzed polymerization and degradation of copolyesters of ε- caprolactone and γ-butyrolactone. Polymer, 2005, 46, 12682−12688.

[28] IfBB, INSTITUTE FOR BIOPLASTICS AND BIOCOMPOSITES. Biopolymers facts and statistics 2020. Biopolymers facts and statistics, p. 3–46, 2020.

[29] JAMROZ, E.; KULAWIK, P.; KOPEL, P. The Effect of Nanofillers on the Functional Properties of Biopolymer-Based Films: A Review. POLYMERS, v. 11, n. 4, 2019.

[30] JONG, E. D., DAM, M. A., SIPOS, L. & GRUTER, G.-J. M. Biobased Monomers, Polymers, and Materials Vol. 1105 ACS Symposium Series Ch. 1, 1–13, American Chemical Society, 2012.

[31] KAHLERT S, BENING CR. Plastics recycling after the global pandemic: resurgence or regression? Resour Conserv Recycl. 2020 Sep;160:104948. doi: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.104948. Epub 2020 May 16. PMID: 32427210; PMCID: PMC7229953.

[32] KARAN, H. et al. Green Bioplastics as Part of a Circular Bioeconomy. TRENDS IN PLANT SCIENCE, v. 24, n. 3, p. 237–249, mar. 2019.

[33] KARASKI, T. U. et al. Embalagem e Sustentabilidade Desafios e orientações no contexto da Economia Circular. São Paulo: ABRE, CETESB, CETEA, 2016.

[34] KHALIL, H. P. S. A. et al. A review on nanocellulosic fibres as new material for sustainable packaging: Process and applications. RENEWABLE & SUSTAINABLE ENERGY REVIEWS, v. 64, p. 823–836, 2016.

[35] KIJCHAVENGKUL, T.; AURAS, R. Compostability of polymers. Polym. Int. 57, 2008, 793–804.

[36] LEWIS, H.; VERGHESE, K.; FITZPATRICK, L. Evaluating the sustainability impacts of packaging: the plastic carry bag dilemma. Packaging Technol Sci 2010;23 (3):145–60.

[37] MEHRPOUYA, M., VAHABI, H., BARLETTA, M., LAHEURTE, P., LANGLOIS, V. Additive manufacturing of polyhydroxyalconoates (PHAs) biopolymers: Materials, printing techniques and applications. Materials Science and Engineering 2021.

[38] MURARIU, M.; DUBOIS, P. PLA composites: From production to properties. ADVANCED DRUG DELIVERY REVIEWS, v. 107, n. SI, p. 17–46, 2016.

[39] PANG, J. et al. Synthesis of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid from biomass for producing PET. Green Chem. 18, 342–359, 2016.

[40] PARLANE NA, Shu D, SUBHARAT S, WEDLOCK DN, REHM BHA, de Lisle GW, et al. (2014) Revaccination of Cattle with Bacille Calmette-Guérin Two Years after First Vaccination when Immunity Has Waned, Boosted Protection against Challenge with Mycobacterium bovis. PLoS ONE 9(9): e106519.

[41] RABNAWAZ, M. et al. A roadmap towards green packaging: the current status and future outlook for polyesters in the packaging industry. GREEN CHEMISTRY, v. 19, n. 20, p. 4737–4753, 2017.

[42] RAI, R. et al, Medium chain lengh polyhydroxyalconoates, promising new biomedical materials for the future. Materials Science and Engineering. R: Reports 2011, 72(3): 29-47.

[43] RAY, S., OKAMOTO, K., OKAMOTO, M. Structure and properties of nanocomposites base on poly(butylene succinate) and organically modified montmorillonite. J. Appl. Polym. Sci.2006;102:777-85.

[44] REGO, D.C., SARTOR, C., KLAYN, N., CORRÊA, H.L. Innovations in polymer applications - plastic packaging. Journal of Research Updates in Polymer Science 2020, 9.

[45] RUJNIĆ-SOKELE, M.; PILIPOVIĆ, A. Challenges and opportunities of biodegradable plastics: A mini review. Waste Management and Research, v. 35, n. 2, p. 132–140, 2017.

[46] SELKE, S.E.; CULTER, J. D. Plastics Packaging: Properties, Processing, Applications, and Regulations. Carl Hanser Verlag GmbH Co KG, 3rd edn, 2016.

[47] SHEN, L.; WORRELL, E; PATEL, M. K. Comparing life cycle energy and GHG emissions of bio-based PET, recycled PET, PLA, and man-made cellulosics. Biofuel. Bioprod. Bior. 6, 625–639, 2012.

[48] SHEN, L.; WORRELL, E.; PATEL, M. Present and future development in plastics from biomass. Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, v. 6, n. 3, p. 246–256, 2009.

[49] SONG, J., DOU, Y., NIU, Y., HE, N. Properties of HA/PBS biodegradable film and evaluation of its influence on the growth of vegetables. Polymer Testing 2021, 95:107137.

[50] SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING COALITION (SPC). Definition of Sustainable Packaging. Renewable Energy, n. August, p. 1–10, 2011.

[51] TAN, D., YIN, J., CHEN, Q-G. Production of polyhydroxyalconoates. Current Developments in Biotechnology and Bioengineering 2017. Elsevier: 655-692.

[52] THREEPOPNATKUL, P., WONGNARAT, C., INTOLO, W., SUATO, S., KULSETTHANCHALEE, C. Effect of TiO2 and ZnO on thin film properties of PET/PBS blend for food packaging applications. Energy Procedia 2014, 56.

[53] ONU, Organização das Nações Unidades. Global Sustainable Development Report. Global Sustainable Development Report: 2015 edition, p. 202, 2015.

[54] VAINIO, A.; OVASKA, U.; VARHO, V. Not so sustainable? Images of bioeconomy by future environmental professionals and citizens. JOURNAL OF CLEANER PRODUCTION, v. 210, p. 1396–1405, 2019.

[55] VINK, E.T.; DAVIES, S. Life cycle inventory and impact assessment data for 2014 Ingeo™ polylactide production, Ind. Biotechnol. 11, 2015, 167–180.

[56] WCED, WORLD COMMISSION ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT. Our common future: the brundtland report. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

[57] YAGI, H. et al. Thermophilic anaerobic biodegradation test and analysis of eubacteria involved in anaerobic biodegradation of four specified biodegradable polyesters. Polym. Degrad. 2013, 98, 1182−1187.

[58] YOSHIDA, S. et al. A bacterium that degrades and assimilates poly(ethylene terephthalate). Science, 2016, 351, 1196–1199.

[59] YOUSSEF, A. M.; EL-SAYED, S. M. Bionanocomposites materials for food packaging applications: Concepts and future outlook. Carbohydrate Polymers, v. 193, p. 19–27, 2018.

[60] ZHANG, M.; YU, Y. Dehydration of ethanol to ethylene. Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 52, 9505–9514, 2013.

[61] ZHANG, X. et al. Catalysis as an Enabling Science for Sustainable Polymers. CHEMICAL REVIEWS, v. 118, n. 2, SI, p. 839–885, jan. 2018.

[62] ZHU, Y.; ROMAIN, C.; WILLIAMS, C. K. Sustainable polymers from renewable resources. NATURE, v. 540, n. 7633, p. 354–362, 2016.


How to Cite

Corrêa, H. L. (2022). Biopolymers applied to packaging: A brief literature review on their impact on sustainability. Non-Metallic Material Science, 4(2), 4–14.