Biodegradable plastics are not widely used because they are less durable and have a higher production cost compared to conventional plastics. The term 'biodegradable' does not necessarily mean environmentally friendly, as there are instances where it can still be detrimental. There are certain biodegradable materials that do not readily decompose in water or soil. Compostability is a trait of biodegradable materials, but not all are compostable products. The use of biodegradable plastics may still be hazardous when improperly disposed of. The term 'bioplastic' refers to the capability of a plastic material to degrade biologically. Not all bioplastics are naturally derived and some are made from synthetic polymers. Bioplastics can be mixed with normal plastics, creating a mixture that is both recyclable and biodegradable
Although biodegradable plastics are widely available and have been used for years, they are not widely used because:
'Biodegradable' does not necessarily mean environmentally friendly. In fact, some biodegradable plastics break down into smaller pieces that still pollute the environment, and can harm wildlife if they are ingested. Additionally, the breakdown of some biodegradable plastics leaves behind toxic chemicals that can contaminate soil and water. The term 'bioplastics' has been coined to describe materials that are derived from renewable sources—for example corn starch or sugarcane—and these types of products may be considered more environmentally friendly than those made from conventional petroleum-based plastics.
Biodegradable plastics are not a panacea for plastic pollution. There are certain biodegradable materials that do not readily decompose in water or soil, especially those made of starch and lignin—the two main ingredients of paper.
Biodegradable plastics made from starch and lignin may be recyclable, but they’re also extremely hard to break down by microbes, according to a new study published in Science Advances.
The study found that these types of bioplastics can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills because they don't have any carbon-based material like plant matter that can be easily broken down by bacteria (which is why you can burn wood).
Composting is a process where biodegradable materials break down in the presence of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. Compostable products can be composted, but not all biodegradable materials are compostable products. Biodegradable plastics are not the same as compostable plastics; they can be used in landfills or incinerators instead of being taken out of the waste stream.
Biodegradable plastics are still a relatively new technology, with many environmental and safety concerns. These plastics take longer to decompose than traditional non-biodegradable plastics, which means that they can be harmful if improperly disposed of. They may also be toxic if ingested by animals or humans.
The term “bioplastic” refers to the capability of a plastic material to degrade biologically. Although many materials are marketed as biodegradable, this is not necessarily the case. Biodegradable plastics can be broken down by biological processes and are made from renewable resources such as plants and vegetable oils rather than petroleum-based plastics which must be discarded after use.
Bioplastics are plastics made from renewable resources, like corn or sugar cane, that can be composted. They have the same properties as regular plastic but are made from materials you can grow again.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about bioplastics because it's not always clear what people mean when they use the term "biodegradable." Biodegradable plastics are not necessarily derived from natural materials! Some types of biodegradable plastic contain synthetic polymers (i.e., man-made substances) that break down into smaller pieces—but these pieces aren't necessarily harmless to the environment or your body!
Bioplastics can be mixed with normal plastics, creating a mixture that is both recyclable and biodegradable. However, this process isn't always simple or easy to implement.
"It's really difficult to blend the two together," says Kalyanam Srinivasan, the director of research at Virginia Tech's School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. "If you're going to use bioplastics in conjunction with petrochemical plastics, they have different melting temperatures."
Biodegradable plastics are not as easy to dispose of as non-biodegradable ones, as the latter can be thrown away in any landfill. Biodegradable plastics need to be disposed of in a way that does not harm the environment and can only be done through composting or incineration.
While composting and burning are both viable options for biodegradable plastic disposal, they require strict controls to ensure proper waste management.
The use of biodegradable plastics is not meant to replace conventional plastics, but rather supplement them. If we are able to implement the use of biodegradable plastics in conjunction with conventional plastics, it can greatly reduce our dependence on non-renewable resources while also reducing our carbon footprint.