What is the Difference Between PHA and PLA

The main difference between PHA and PLA is that PHA is a type of polyester produced by bacteria, while PLA is derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane through fermentation.

PHA and PLA are types of biodegradable polymers considered eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastics.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is PHA 
      – Definition, Features, Use
2. What is PLA
      – Definition, Features, Use 
3. Similarities Between PHA and PLA
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between PHA and PLA
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: PHA and PLA
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

PHA, PLA, Polyhydroxyalkanoates, Polylactic Acid

Difference Between PHA and PLA - Comparison Summary

What is PHA

PHA stands for polyhydroxyalkanoates. Polyhydroxyalkanoates are a class of biodegradable polymers produced by various microorganisms as a means of storing carbon and energy. These versatile biopolymers have gained considerable attention due to their eco-friendly nature and potential applications in addressing the environmental issues associated with conventional plastics.

PHA production occurs through microbial fermentation, where bacteria, such as Pseudomonas, Bacillus, and Cupriavidus, convert renewable carbon sources like sugars and lipids into biodegradable polymers. The resulting PHAs exhibit a range of properties, from flexibility to rigidity, making them suitable for diverse applications.

Compare PHA and PLA

One of the most notable characteristics of PHAs is their biodegradability. Unlike traditional plastics derived from fossil fuels, PHAs can be broken down by microorganisms in various environments, including soil and water, leading to minimal ecological impact. This property positions PHAs as a promising solution to the global plastic pollution crisis.

PHAs have applications in various industries, including packaging, agriculture, and medical fields. In packaging, PHAs can be used to create biodegradable films and containers, reducing the environmental footprint of single-use plastics. In agriculture, they can be employed as biodegradable mulch films, enhancing soil fertility and eliminating the need for post-harvest removal. Additionally, PHAs have potential applications in the medical field, such as biodegradable sutures and drug delivery systems.

Despite their promising attributes, challenges like production costs and scalability hinder the widespread adoption of PHAs. Researchers and industry leaders are actively working to overcome these obstacles, exploring new strains of microorganisms, optimizing fermentation processes, and seeking cost-effective carbon sources.

What is PLA

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic derived from renewable resources, most commonly corn starch or sugarcane. This eco-friendly polymer has gained significant attention as a sustainable alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics. PLA possesses unique properties that make it suitable for various applications.

One of the key advantages of PLA is its biodegradability. Unlike conventional plastics that can persist in the environment for centuries, PLA breaks down more rapidly under certain conditions, reducing its environmental impact. This feature has led to its use in single-use items like disposable utensils, packaging, and food containers.


PLA exhibits excellent versatility, with properties comparable to traditional plastics. It is transparent, lightweight, and can be molded into various shapes, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. Additionally, PLA has a lower carbon footprint during production compared to petroleum-based plastics, contributing to a more sustainable manufacturing process.

Despite its positive attributes, PLA does have limitations. It tends to have lower heat resistance than some traditional plastics, which may limit its use in certain applications. Furthermore, PLA requires specific conditions for effective biodegradation, and improper disposal can still contribute to environmental pollution.

Similarities Between PHA and PLA

  • PHA and PLA can be derived from renewable resources.
  • Both are biodegradable polymers.

Difference Between PHA and PLA


PHA is a family of biodegradable polymers derived from renewable resources and can be produced by bacteria during fermentation. On the other hand, PLA is a biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic made from renewable resources, primarily corn starch or sugarcane, and synthesized through the polymerization of lactic acid.


PHA exhibits a wide range of mechanical properties, making it versatile for different applications. It can be flexible or rigid, depending on the specific type of PHA polymer. On the other hand, PLA is known for its rigidity and strength. It is commonly used in applications such as packaging, disposable cutlery, and 3D printing due to its favorable mechanical properties.

Break Down

PLA takes a longer time to break down in natural environments compared to PHA.


Is PHA stronger than PLA?

PHA is stronger than PLA.

What is the disadvantage of PHA plastic?

The high cost incurred is a disadvantage of PHA.

What are the advantages of PHA bioplastics?

PHA polymers are completely isotactic, hydrophobic, insoluble in water, and resistant to hydrolytic degradation.


PHA and PLA are two types of biodegradable polymers. The main difference between PHA and PLA is that PHA is a type of polyester produced by bacteria, while PLA is derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane through fermentation.


1. “Polyhydroxyalkanoates.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation. 
2. “Polylactic Acid.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Poly-(R)-3-hydroxybutyrat” By Polimerek – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Polylactid sceletal” By NEUROtiker ⇌ – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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