Here's a short history and summary of the bioplastics milestones, innovations and discoveries.
1.500 BCE – MesoAmerican cultures (Olmec, Maya, Aztecs) use natural latex and rubber to make balls, containers and make their clothes waterproof.
1862 – Alexander Parkes (UK) creates Parkesine, the first man-made plastic made from cellulose. Parkesine was a biobased plastic, a bioplastic.
1897 – Galalith is invented by German chemists. It’s a biodegradable plastic made from casein (milk). Commercial breakthrough was limited for several reasons. Galalith could not be moulded. Milk was scarce and the development of oil-based plastics were boosted during WWI. Galalith is still used today to make buttons.
Impact Corona on Bioplastics
1926 – Maurice Lemoigne (FR) developed polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) from bacterium Bacillus megaterium. This was the first bioplastics made from bacteria. The principle is easy: when humans eat sugar, they will put on fat. When bacteria absorb sugars, they will produce polymers.
1907 – Leo Baekeland (BE) invented Bakelite that was coined a ‘National Historic Chemical Landmark’ due to its importance. Bakelite was a synthetic plastic that was revolutionary for its electrical non-conductivity and heat-resistant properties in electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings and other products such as kitchenware, jewelry, toys and firearms. Leo hit the jackpot with Bakelite.
1912 – Brandenberger (CH) invents and patents Cellophane, a transparent sheet made from wood, cotton or hemp cellulose. Cellophane is a trade mark and a generic term. The registered trademark is currently property of Futamura Chemical UK.