Polymers have marked their territory in almost every aspect of modern life. Polymers range from common synthetic plastics such as polystyrene to biopolymers such as DNA and proteins that are fundamental to biological function and structure. Both natural and synthetic polymers are created using the polymerization of many small molecules, known as monomers. Did you know that our body is also made up of many natural polymers like nucleic acids, proteins, etc.? In recent times, there has been a drastic increase in the demand for polymers produced naturally and green polymers in the market.
In the U.S. alone, the sale of natural polymers is expected to exceed $5 billion by 2020. Generally speaking, green and natural are two peas in a pod, but it is not the case for polymers. Natural polymers (or biopolymers) are polymers that occur naturally or are produced by living organisms (such as cellulose, silk, chitin, protein, DNA). So, what are green polymers then? Green polymers are those produced using green (or sustainable) chemistry, a term that was coined in the 1990s. Green chemistry deals with the design of chemical products and processes that eliminate or decrease the use or generation of substances that are hazardous to humans, animals, plants, and the environment.