Does Lignin Have Legs as a Future Plastics Feedstock?

Four Canadian researchers make a case that lignin could become an important feedstock for bioplastics

“Considering the current production of lignin from pulp and paper industries as well as potential future production from lingocellulosic ethanol industries, it is estimated that around 300 M ton/year of lignin will be produced in North America,” they said in an article presented at the Annual Technical Conference (Antec) of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) held concurrently last month with NPE2012 in Orlando, FL. “Lignin is now considered as an inexpensive co-product and it is mainly used as a boiler fuel. The value of lignin can be better realized as a good source for new outlets such as renewable resource based materials.”

Lignin can be made into phenol, terephthalic acid, benzene, xylene, and toluene—important building blocks for aromatic plastics. Other potential uses are in the production of surfactants and UV stablizers. “However, all these new uses account for only 2% of the generated lignin and the remaining is mostly burnt for energy as low efficient fuel.”

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Tags: lignin vis-à-vis plastics, bio-composites, corn-to-ethanol industry, lignin-based bio-thermoplastics


The Molding Blog, 2012-05-03.


Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre (BDDC)
Department of Plant Agriculture
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Ontario Hemp Alliance, Canada
Polymer-Matrix Composite Group
Smithers Rapra Technology Ltd
University of Guelph