Plastic, in the form of bottles, bags, packaging materials, furniture and more, has become an integral part of our present-day lives. However, there are rising problems due to over-use of plastic which has caused a worldwide alarm. The world today is aiming for a plastic detox. Starting from petitions for plastic-free shopping in supermarkets to ensuring that only recyclable packaging is used for transporting products as far as possible; companies and individuals alike are jumping on to the plastic-free bandwagon. While some are switching to natural alternatives of plastic, others are looking for bio-degradable plastic options. However, is there really such a thing such as bio-degradable plastic?
The Difference between Bio-Degradable, Compostable and Bio-Based Plastic
Now there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about plastic which is bio-degradable. We attempt to bust some of them here through this article
Biodegradable is not always Compostable
While compostable plastic is biodegradable, the opposite is not always true. Theoretically speaking, biodegradable means the material should break down into water, carbon dioxide and minerals. However, this is not the case with all plastics. Also, many of the plastics that are bio-degradable, only degrade at very specific temperatures and also need optimal levels of light, water and oxygen for the same. And even then, they leave behind residues which are toxic for the environment.
Plastics are not Naturally Biodegradable
This is another myth that needs to be busted. Many of the plastics will not biodegrade naturally. Owing to the conditions required for their biodegradation, a lot of plastics will only get biodegraded at industrial facilities.
All Bio-based Plastics are not Biodegradable
Many Bio-based plastics are known to not be biodegradable. However, they can be recycled, albeit partially. Bio-Plastics such as Bio-PET, which is made from plant materials is known to have chemical structure that is identical to the fossil based plastics such as Polyethylene and Polyethylene Terephthalate.
It is not Economically and Environmentally feasible to Recycle all forms of Plastic
Every bio-based plastic does not deliver the same amount of pure recyclate streams. These streams are the amount of product that can be recycled to produce something new. Keeping this in mind, the overall volume of recyclate produced at times will cost more economically and even environmentally to recycle some bio-based plastics. For the process will produce a bigger carbon footprint ultimately.
To conclude, bio-based plastic and even biodegradable plastic while having their virtues, also come with their own set of flaws. As such, they cannot really be substitutes to plastic due to a lot of reasons.