Is PLA Environmentally Friendly?

Views:261     Author:Site Editor     Publish Time: 2020-08-14      Origin:Site

Poly Lactic Acid is a polymer obtained by polymerizing lactic acid as the main raw material and is a new type of biodegradable material. Therefore, PLA yarn is an environmentally friendly yarn.


There is a reason why the most popular and widely used 3D printing material for FDM printers is PLA. Compared with other materials, it is very easy to print, which makes it an ideal filament for amateurs. Similarly, it is generally believed that PLA filament is more sustainable and safer than other materials. Where does this assumption come from? What is the sustainability of 100% environmental-friendly PLA? Next we will focus on issues related to PLA.



1. How PLA is produced?


PLA, also known as Poly Lactic Acid, is obtained from renewable natural raw materials such as corn. Extract starch (glucose) from plants and convert it to glucose by adding enzymes. The microorganisms ferment it to lactic acid, which is then converted to polylactide. Polymerization produces long-chain molecular chains whose properties are similar to those of petroleum-based polymers.



2. What does “PLA's biodegradable and compostable” mean?


The terms "biodegradable and compostable" and their distinction are crucial and often misunderstood. Jan-Peter Willie explained: “Many people confuse “biodegradable” with “compostable.” Broadly speaking, “biodegradable” means that an object can be biodegraded, while "Compostable" usually means that this process will result in composting.


Under certain anaerobic or aerobic conditions, "biodegradable" materials can be decomposed. However, almost all materials will decompose with the passage of time. Therefore, the exact environmental conditions that are biodegradable must be clearly defined. Composting is an artificial process. According to the European standard EN13432, if within six months in an industrial composting plant, at least 90% of the polymer or packaging is converted to carbon emissions by microorganisms, and the maximum content of the additive is 1%, the polymer or packaging is considered "compostable". The original quality is harmless. Or we can say in a nutshell: "All composting is always biodegradable, but not all biodegradation is composting".



3. Is PLA yarn really environmentally friendly?


When promoting PLA materials, the term “biodegradable” is often used, which shows that PLA, like kitchen garbage, can rot in household compost or natural environment. However, this is not the case. PLA filament can be described as naturally degradable PLA filament, but under the specific conditions of industrial composting, in this case, it is more appropriate to say that it is a biodegradable polymer. Industrial composting conditions, ie in the presence of microorganisms, controlling temperature and humidity is a necessary condition for PLA to be truly degradable." Florent Port explained. Jan-Peter Willie added: "PLA is compostable, but it can only be used in industrial composting plants."


Under these industrial composting conditions, PLA can be biodegraded within days to months. The temperature must be higher than 55-70ºC. Nicholas also confirmed: "PLA can only be biodegraded under industrial composting conditions."



4. Whether PLA can be recycled?


According to the three experts, PLA itself can be recycled. However, Florent Port pointed out: "There is currently no official PLA waste collection for 3D printing. In fact, the current plastic waste channel is difficult to distinguish PLA from other polymers (such as PET (water bottles)". Therefore, technically, PLA is recyclable, provided that the product series consists only of PLA and is not contaminated by other plastics."



5. Is PLA corn filament the most environmentally friendly filament?


Nicolas Roux believes that there is no truly sustainable alternative to corn filament, "Unfortunately, I don't know the true green and safe corn filament, whether they will emit particles in the earth or ocean or be able to biodegrade themselves. I think that when choosing materials, manufacturers prefer to use filaments with compatible safety in a responsible manner.


Jiayi's 100% biodegradable PLA yarn has won unanimous praise among customers. If you are looking for suitable degradable environmentally friendly yarn, you can contact us





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