In this article we would like to clarify some concepts about the so-called “biodegradable” eco-friendly plastics.
At Sinplástico we believe that none of these plastics must be considered environmental friendly because they are not recycled, they damage both our health and the environment and because manufacturers, since they degrade, avoid these plastics management and treatment.
Plastic is composed of molecules called polymers and various additives added, that give them their properties and characteristics. In common plastic, the raw material is oil. This plastic is not biodegradable, which means that it is not useful for feeding any living being. The result is that plastic never disappears. It simply breaks down into tiny particles under the effect of sunlight or other elements and forces without undergoing any change in their chemical composition.
Bioplastics is the name given to those plastics manufactured from natural polymers such as potato starch or corn.
Although many, not all, of these plant-based plastics are biodegradable, the use of these bioplastics have, however, a number of serious problems that we should take into account:
1. The fact that they use vegetable-based plastic does not deny the fact that they also carry harmful additives whose impact on the environment is worrying, especially when often end up directly in the soil or water after degradation.
2. Common plastic recycling is already very complicated. If we want these bioplastics to be properly treated we should launch a specified network in order to collect and process them.
3. These disposable plastics, with a single use, consume large amounts of land and energy as well as natural resources.
4. Since they are expensive and are produced on a small scale, they are lately being replaced with oxo-degradable plastics.
Oxo-degradable plastics (or oxo-biodegradable)
Oxo-degradable plastics are common plastics with a specific additive added, D2W, that enables them to degrade without any living being intervention.
These plastics also present a number of problems:
1. It is assumed that the waste generated is used by living organisms for their development and therefore is biodegradable, but today there are many doubts in this regard.
2. Another issue we should face is the toxicity of their additives because they end directly in nature without being treated.
3. Plastic industry leads us to believe that these plastics as biodegradable when they are not. This fact makes not only consumers but manufacturers and authorities cop-out of the management of the waste generated believing that nature will take care of the mess.
In short, the problem is not whether replacing petro-carbon with bio-carbon is better because, as we have seen, biodegradable or oxo-degradable plastics create more problems than they might solve.
At Sinplástico we are convinced that the only solution to this ecological catastrophe, represented by our current way of using plastic, is to refuse single-use items and opt for reusable products, in bulk or loosely packed.
If you require more information on this subject, we recommend reading the report by Clare Goldsberry “Are bioplastics still plastics?” that addresses this issue very clearly and is recommend by Plastic Pollution Coalition.