Saturday 28 July 2012

Biopolymer World Conference: Venice-Mestre: April 22nd-24th 2012

This was the first biopolymer conference organised by San Diego-based Biopolymer World Magazine and it proved to be an informative addition to the EU calendar.  It attracted about 100 delegates and some excellent papers despite being shoe-horned into the space between a weekend and the annual St Marks day holiday.  The location may not have been the best either, Venice having holiday connotations for the international audience while mainland-Mestre, where the conference centre was located, is, in comparison with Venice, an unattractive industrial area.

This conference, like its older cousin the Bioplastics Conference, confuses traditional polymer chemists by using the “Bio” prefix in two different ways.  “Biopolymer” is used to refer both to conventional synthetic polymers made from bio-ethanol, and to biodegradable polymers made from fossil fuel.  Cellulose, “the most abundant biopolymer on the planet” only gets a mention as a constituent of biomass from which ethanol can be derived!

An ISO definition of “Biopolymer”  is emerging and this is most likely to use a carbon 14 assessment of the ratio of fossil to renewable carbon in the polymer with more than 25% renewable being required to allow the Biopolymer label.  “Biodegradability” is not required and may even be a disadvantage: biodegradable plastics being seen in some quarters as sources of contamination in the recycling of traditional polymers made from bio-ethanol.

Paper summaries will be posted here over the next few weeks.

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