The secrets of bioplastic

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BIOPLASTIC Written by Clara Davis



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IN TR O DUCT I ON Since the Second Industrial Revolution and the petroleum discovery, the plastic has taken a huge part in the commercial industry : plastic bags, food packagings, building materials, phones, laptops... In the midst of the 90's over-consumption society, the emergence of the notion of sustainable development became prominent. People get tired of all this waste and started to think about the cycle of industrial production : materials, production process, durability, recycling...etc. Today more than ever, we need to change our habits, find alternatives to better respect our environment. That's why we decided to make this tutorial about bioplastic and explain how it works.



2 There are several types of bioplastics, they can be agrosourced or biodegradable or both. Agrosourced polymers are not made from petroleum but from renewable biological raw materials such as vegetable matter. Biodegradable polymers can be derived from petrochemicals or biomass. Generaly the production and use of bioplastics are considered as a sustainable activity compared to the production of petroplastic. Bioplastic relies less on fossil fuels and also rejects less Greenhouse gases during biodegradation. The polylactic acid called PLA is the most commercially available bioplastic. It’s a biodegradable bioplastic obtained from the fermentation of corn starch. PLA is used in various sectors, from packaging to surgery and especially in the area of 3d printers. Compared to petroplastic, the PLA is more expensive to produce, twice the price and its technical properties are lower for now. That’s why PLA didn’t take the all market of plastic industry yet, its requires investments and biotechnologies advances.

Samples of bioplastic made with foam (gelatin base recipe)

In this book we are going to explain how to create his own bioplastic, a type of agrosourced bioplastic made from gelatin base. But there are many bioplastics make from renewable ressources like wheat, cornstrach, potatoes, milk...



What we don't know is that the history of bioplastic is older than plastic made from petroleum. In the 15th century before J.C., the Egyptians were already using glues based on gelatin, casein or albumin for furnitures constructions.

Bioplastic made from milk called galalith was also used by the french designer August Bonaz, in the early 1920s, to create brooches and jewelry inspired by the Bauhaus style. This “milk stone� material became really trendy in 1926 with the little black dress accessories of Coco Chanel. The production of galalith stopped because of the Second World War, milk became a rare and valuable ingredient.

HOW TO MAKE BIOPLASTIC ? As we've seen before, there are several recipes to create bioplastic. Here, for our experimentations, we're gonna use only three simple ingredients : gelatin (pig skin), glycerol and water. You can see other recipes from Materiability put in appendices (13) at the end of the book. The gelatin we are gonna take is made with recycling pig skin of the meat industry. It's a yellow pale and unflavored powder that you can buy in any food markets. The glycerol is produced by fermentation of vegetables sugar. It's liquid, transparent, colorless and create the plasticity of the product. Less glycerol will create a more brittle but harder material, more glycerol will make a flexible and softer sheet. You can find glycerol in the drugstores. You can get different hardness (or elasticities) depending on the quantities of gelatin, glycerol and water you put inside your mixture. You can also change the opacity and create foam with spitting air inside the heated mix.

4 Equipment list :

Main recipe :

- balance - heater - pan - spoon - clean glass, plastic or alumin board or mold

- cold water (240 ml) -gelatin powder (48 g) - glycerol (12 g)

COOKING & DRYING PROCESS The work area needs to be clean and all tools and materials should be at hand. -> First mix the cold water and the gelatin powder in the pan without heating. -> Gradually, the mixture turns into a granular yellow pale paste. -> Then start heating the preparation while stirring slowly so that there are no lumps. -> Once the preparation has become liquid and homogeneous add the glycerin into the mixture. -> Continue mixing and heating until you begin to see a whitish deposit on the surface of your mixture. If you want a transparent matter you have to remove completely this white foam with a spoon. Otherwise, you can keep it inside the mixture, it will dry on the surface and create a fluffy part. You can also make more foam by adding air inside your mix. - Now pour your mixture into the mold or the prepared surface. It's preferable to take a glass or aluminum mold to cast its bioplastic because a wooden or cardboard surface will probably stick and damage the desired shape of the bioplastic.

The drying time depends on several factors : the dosages of water, gelatin and glycerol put in the mixture ; the thickness of your final product and also the temperature and humidity of the room in which you made it dry. It's best to wait a week of drying before taking off the bioplastic. If you remove it too soon, it's most likely that it will deform by continuing to dry. In order to have the shrinking effect have a frame of the shape you want and cast the bioplastic on glass. Let dry for 2-3 days. Lift up and let shape dry with the frame letting the air to pass from both sides.



What happens when you mix bioplastics with other materials ? Here are several test samples of bioplastics mixed with other elements : pigments, threads, textile, scotch, metal, wood ...


PROPERTIES OF BIOPLASTIC / the truth about bioplastic After making our first tests of bioplastic with a gelatin base we can make a list of pros & cons and reveal the truth about this bioplastic. PROS : - can take any shapes (volume, surface, sheet...) - can have different performance by changing the dosages of water, gelatin and glycerol (elastic -> rigid) - can be transparent & smooth or opaque & fluffy if you add air inside the mix - can dissolve in the water (pros or cons?) - can be easily recycled and reused by warming it again CONS : - don’t smell good (especially when you cook it, once dry the smell begins to fade) - glue to wood, metal, cardboard but rejects plastic elements if its placed on the surface - don’t resist water - don’t resist the heat (never put bioplastic in the oven !) - if you create a volume with a large concentration of bioplastic this one will tend to mold. -- it will shrink and change its shape while it dries

Samples of bioplastic with different materialities :

-> hard : water 250 ml, gelatin 50 g, no glycerol -> flexible : water 250 ml, gelatin 50 g, glycerol 50 g



Bioplastics are biodegradable and antiallergic. Usually, they are used for disposable items like packaging and catering products (straws, dishes, cutlery, etc.). Some bioplastics can be used as food packaging because they are not health-toxic and can be composted with organic waste : containers or boxes for vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat... There are also non-biodegradable and more resistant bioplastics which are used for longer-term products such as building materials (pipes, cables, etc.) or coating materials such as mobile phone boxes, cars interiors, carpeting...


Samples of bioplastic sheets : testing the flexibility and the transparency by varying the amount of glycerol

PUIG PROJECT - introduction

Puig compagny was founded in 1914 in Barcelona. It is an international company dedicated to perfumes, cosmetics and fashion. It was created by Antonio Puig CastellĂł. Puig compagny is now run by the Puig family. In both fashion and perfume sectors, Puig compagny works with famous brands like Paco Rabanne, Jean Paul Gaultier, Prada, Valentino, Nina Ricci and others... For this Puig company project the idea is to create a bioplastic packaging for a perfume bottle and also an new experimental retail concept.

On the right, you can see bioplastics samples we’ve made for testing colors and fragrances.


PUIG PROJECT - perfume bottle packaging


Bioplastics are principaly used for food packagings but can we create a packaging in bioplastic for a perfume bottle ? How can we make it luxurious ? What can be the most effective way to protect the perfume bottle? How can the person enjoy it the most ? The concept is to use the perfume bottle packaging as a perfume itself. It could be a fragrant ball to perfume the bath for exemple or a nice soap ? The consumer would use the packaging of the perfume bottle before retrieving the perfume trapped inside. We did many bioplastics tests with different shapes, transparencies, colors (pigments, inks...), frangrances, aggregates of materials (wood, stone, flowers, grass...) and finally decided to create a foam ball. The consumer will throw the fluffy bioplastic packaging in his bath, the bioplastic will dissolve in the water and then the consumer will be able to take the perfume bottle.

On the left : samples of bioplastic made with different layers -> bioplastic, foam, foam + bubbles + pigments + blue granules -> foam + pink pigments, bioplastic, foam, bioplastic + pink pigments -> bioplastic + black cement’s pigments, foam + bubbles

PUIG PROJECT - perfume bottles molds


So we imagined a packaging serving as a mold to create different samples of bioplastics and visualize the flavors inside the perfume. We start to design in Rhinoceros a box (15cm x 15cm) containing two bottles molds one in the other : the mal bottle mold and femal bottle mold.

During our tests we noticed that we can make bioplastic volume with different layers. Wouln’t it be nice to design a perfume bottle with layers so that we can see the different quantities of fragrantes indside ?

After laser cutting our design on a piece of acrylic with 1 cm thick we obtain 3 volumes (the packaging and the two bottles, mal and female) with 15 molds to be field with bioplastic and superimposed for recreate each volumes.

PUIG WORKSHOP - futuristic station


According to Puig company their strength is their ability to “shape the image of brands through fashion, and to translate that into the world of fragrance through storytelling and product excellence”. Selling a product it’s telling a story to the consumer. For the workshop with the marketing team of Puig company we proposed what could be the futuristic retail station. We imagined a experimental laboratory where the consumer will be able to create his own perfume. We prepared a light table with three areas : -> presentation of different samples of bioplastic for showing exemples of what you can do -> installation of frangrance samples (perfumes, creams, scent crystals...) , colors (pigment, ink, paint...) and materials (wood, stone, flowers, grass, metal, plastic...) -> the cooking area

In the experimental laboratory the idea is to physicalize a persons’s memory relating to a specific smell, color and texture.

During the workshop each person had to choose a smell and collect colors and materials for generate a story, a memory around this specific smell. All of this collected elements have been mixed with bioplastic inside a layer mold of one of the bottle. At the end of the workshop, we have reconstituted the two bottles with each discs of bioplastic containing a specific smell, color and texture. Then the combination of these discs generate a collective memory of the workshop experience.

APPENDICES 13 Casein based bioplastic from milk 1 L Milk / 4 Tablespoons vinegar The milk has to be slowly warmed in a pan or pot. The vinegar is then added while the milk is continuously stirred until solid clumps begin to form. The liquid is then poured through a strainer. The remaining clumps can be scooped out and left on a flat surface covered with kitchen paper. Kitchen paper is also used to press out excess moisture. The material will need several days to dry. Casein based bioplastic from cream and lemon juice ½ Cup heavy cream / Lemon juice The cream is mixed with three tablespoons of lemon juice in a pan or pot. The mixture is then slowly heated while continuously being stirred. Gradually more lemon juice is added while stirring further. The mixture will eventually thicken and make a gel-like consistence. After straining the mixture the solid cream byproducts can be collected and washed. They can then be molded or shaped into various forms. Starch based bioplastic 700 ml Water / 100 ml Vinegar / 50 ml Glycerin / 150 ml Cornstarch

Other recipes from the website Materiability to create his own bioplastic. You can also find more information on bioplastics on or http://

The water, vinegar, and glycerin are poured into a pan or pot and mixed. Then cornstarch is added and the solution thoroughly stirred, while slowly adding heat, until it has completely dissolved. After continuously mixing and heating the liquid for about ten minutes it begins to thicken and turns gel-like. The heat can then be turned off but the gel should be stirred for another one to two minutes before pouring into a mold or on a flat surface. The material needs between twelve to twenty-four hours to dry, heavily depending on its thickness. Serious shrinkage might occur. The amounts and volumes can be adjusted in order to create materials with varying properties. More glycerin will result in a harder plastic, more starch makes for a denser and less viscous material. An 8 parts water, 1 part vinegar, 1 part glycerin, and 1.5 parts starch mixture might be best for filling molds and easier to work with. However starch does not make for a very sturdy plastic. It can be used to create thin, flexible films but is generally too weak to make solid objects like cups or utensils.



I would like to thank Anastasia Pistofidou, my intern tutor at Fab Lab Textile for her teaching and I would also like to thank Aldana Persia, Laura Ramos and Eva Blšáková for their precious help.

All experiments, content and ideation created at FAB TEXTILE LAB

Written by Clara Davis in February 2017