A Review of Polylactic Acid as a Replacement Material for Single-Use Laboratory Components
Every year, the EU emits 13.4 Mt of CO2 solely from plastic production, with 99% of all plastics being produced from fossil fuel sources, while those that are produced from renewable sources use food products as feedstocks. In 2019, 29 Mt of plastic waste was collected in Europe. It is estimated that 32% was recycled, 43% was incinerated and 25% was sent to landfill. It has been estimated that life-sciences (biology, medicine, etc.) alone create plastic waste of approximately 5.5 Mt/yr, the majority being disposed of by incineration. The vast majority of this plastic waste is made from fossil fuel sources, though there is a growing interest in the possible use of bioplastics as a viable alternative for single-use lab consumables, such as petri dishes, pipette tips, etc. However, to-date only limited bioplastic replacement examples exist. In this review, common polymers used for labware are discussed, along with examining the possibility of replacing these materials with bioplastics, specifically polylactic acid (PLA). The material properties of PLA are described, along with possible functional improvements dure to additives. Finally, the standards and benchmarks needed for assessing bioplastics produced for labware components are reviewed.