Sep 16, 2014

Compostable Bioplastic

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Compostable plastic is eco-friendlyDo you use plastics at home? It’s a high probability that your answer is a big affirmative. It seems that plastics have invaded every part of our lives today. Furniture, plastic bags, and practically every type of container are made from plastic. While these materials are very useful, they pose a huge problem to health and the environment. Plastics are among the most abundant waste materials in landfills today. Did you know that 2.5 million plastic bottles are thrown away by Americans every hour? Even worse, the plastic products ending up in our landfills are frequently non-biodegradable. Staggering facts, but there are better alternatives – compostable plastics and bioplastics.

 

Compostable Plastics

 

Compostable plastics are actually environmentally friendly plastics which are made from renewable raw materials. They are compostable and, therefore, able to break down helping to minimize the waste materials that contribute to the deterioration and pollution of our environment. It’s important to note that not all compostable plastics qualify as bioplastics. There are currently some petroleum-based compostable plastics on the market, and the industry is continually developing new formulations.

 

Compostable plastics are typically made from corn or potato starch, lactic acid, and soy protein. Since these are natural materials, they can break down over time due to the naturally occurring processes. Once they become widely utilized they will substantially lessen the volume of waste in our landfills. And as an added benefit, any of the compostable plastics that end up in the oceans can completely decompose over time without releasing any toxic by-products.

 

Traditional plastics made from petroleum never decompose. Moreover, during the manufacturing process, petroleum-based plastics emit harmful toxins into the air and put an additional strain on the dwindling oil supply.

 

Three Categories of Bioplastics

 

Compostable bioplastics, as defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), are those that can break down into water, biomass, or carbon dioxide. The rate of its decomposition must be like other compostable materials such as paper and it must not leave any toxic residue.

 

The next category is biodegradable bioplastics; these are plastics which will biodegrade when exposed to decomposers. These decomposers include bacteria, microscopic organisms, and fungi. The material does not necessarily need to have a zero-rating toxic residue.

 

Degradable bioplastics must have the capacity to undergo chemical structural changes. These changes are not required to be of natural causes and will likely require intervention though they are considered a degradable plastic. Bear in mind that this type of plastic is also likely to leave a toxic residue in its wake.

 

Compostable Plastic and Bioplastic Advantages

 

Using compostable plastics and bioplastics help to reduce reliance on petroleum and  landfills. When selecting a plastic product, supporting eco-friendly choices will help both the environment and the people living in this world.

 

 

(2010) Compostable Plastics. Retrieved August 17, 2010.

(2010) Bioplastics. Retrieved August 17, 2010.

(2010) Waste Facts and Figures. Retrieved August 17, 2010.

(2010) Image by Graur Codrin

 

 

3 comments

  • Comment Link Greg Stevens Monday, 13 September 2010 08:10 posted by Greg Stevens

    Hello. I manage the website http://green-plastics.net, and we currently have a featured article on our main page that talks about bioplastics and degradability. That article presents a more positive perspective on degradable plastic and additives, and has some skepticism about compostability as a standard.

    I would love for you to write a featured article for us that would provide a contrasting perspective: the case FOR compostable bioplastics in particular.

    Please contact me and let me know if you would be interested.

  • Comment Link nurse practitioner Sunday, 05 December 2010 14:42 posted by nurse practitioner

    This is a useful blog, I am seriously interested in finding out more recommendations for eco friendly living.

  • Comment Link Andrew Friday, 13 July 2012 11:07 posted by Andrew

    Bioplastics are not truly compostable, the plastic undustry has used "lawyer-speak" to blur the issue.  It is a politicians answer, not a real answer.

     According to the bioplastics industry, compostable is defined as "that which is capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site such that the material is not visually distinguishable and breaks down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass at a rate consistent with known compostable materials. (Reference: ASTM D 6002."

    In other words, for a plastic to classify as "compostable" it only has to LOOK like it is going away and not kill more than 10% of what you try to grow with it.  THIS IS NOT THE DEFINITION OF COMPOSTABLE.

    As anybody with the know-how will tell you, for something to be considered compostable it has to turn into humus, a pure organic material.  But, alas, they have included "inorganic compounds" in their definition:  this is to allow for the toxic petroleum residue bioplastic leaves behind… that's right: petroleum.  Bioplastics use REGULAR PLASTIC as an ingredient.  This stuff is not truly compostable, as you and I understand it.

    The only thing bioplastics accomplish is hiding liquid plastic in our soil.

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