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.