On the trail of the wholesome pine

Scientists in the UK can now see the wood for the trees having found a way to make plastic from pine trees. Pinene is the fragrant chemical found in the terpene family of natural products that gives pine trees their characteristic fresh scent. It is also a significant waste product of the paper industry given that pine wood pulp is a common raw material. Degradable polyesters such as PLA (polylactic acid) are manufactured from corn or sugar cane but these polymers usually require a petroleum-derived additive, caprolactone, to make them flexible, reducing their green credentials. A team from the University of Bath has found that pinene can be used instead of caprolactone to make an entirely biodegradable alternative plastic.