Are Bioplastics Good For The Environment? ๐ŸŒ: In this blog, we discuss the definition of bioplastics, its benefits and weigh in on its ‘environmentally friendliness’. Read on to learn more.

 

Trillions among trillions of pounds of plastic had already acquired its chance to scourge the Earth, most notably the ocean. It pesters marine life up to no end with reports of ensnared animals, choking and dying fishes and even plastic materials making our way inside our bodies due to our food originally having eaten plastic.

As a result, bioplastics are becoming increasingly common nowadays because, of course, people have become more conscious of what they buy, consume and dispose of. People have gotten what they asked for when it comes to sustainability and environmentally friendlier option in the form of bioplastics. But are bioplastics truly good for the environment?

Of course, they are advertised as one โ€“ after all, these plastic materials are produced from renewable biomass and are biodegradable. They are as good of an option as coffee waste being used as fuel, according to plenty! One would naturally think of them as the better option. We weigh in on its ‘environmentally friendliness’ below. Additionally, we will first extensively cover its definition and benefits to the environment.

 

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Bioplastics ARE GOOD for the environment, but…

First, we talk about bioplastics’ definition.

In layman’s terms, bioplastics simply refers to biodegradable materials based from plastic produced from completely renewable sources. Instead of the usual petroleum, bioplastic use materials such as wood chippings, food waste, oils coming from vegetables, corn starch, fodder (i.e., straw), sawdust and more. Scientists and innovators produced them specifically to address the plastic problem of the Earth. This plastic problem, up to this day, suffocates the planet and steadily continues to pollute and contaminate our already-ailing environment.

It is currently being promoted as a better alternative than plastic, because of its degradability and on-par resistance and flexibility to that of original plastic.

 

The benefits of using bioplastics

What are the benefits of using bioplastics instead of the traditional plastics?

Below, we enumerate the advantages of using bioplastic products.

  • Bioplastics reduce your carbon footprint and helps you make a difference to the betterment of the environment.
  • People can use them without the worry of compromising their health. Traditional plastic contain harmful additives such as bisphenol A (also called BPA). Bisphenol A is usually found in plastics and have harmful effects, an example of which is affecting a human’s fertility. In addition, bisphenol A was also even reportedly found on recycled toilet paper!
  • ย They help reduce waste from going into landfills. Non-biodegradable waste going into landfills spells trouble because they do not have the ability to biodegrade and will stay and contaminate the Earth for years โ€“ or even centuries โ€“ to come.
  • Bioplastics do not need the consumption of non-renewable materials for its production, therefore helping save and/or save up these valuable commodities.
  • They require lesser energy to produce.
  • Using bioplastics does not feel any different than using plastics, as manufacturers made them as strong and versatile as โ€“ if not more than โ€“ traditional plastic.

 

Are bioplastics really good for the environment? Arising confusions

Obviously, we expect bioplastics to break down completely in the environment. We also think that they are made purely from plants (or biodegradable materials). But are these general assumptions true? An Ensia article tells otherwise.

The article states that the way bioplastics are marketed have gotten people confused. Here, we quote from the article below:

The term โ€œbioplasticsโ€ is actually used for two separate things: bio-based plastics (plastics made at least partly from biological matter) and biodegradable plastics (plastics that can be completely broken down by microbes in a reasonable timeframe, given specific conditions). Not all bio-based plastics are biodegradable, and not all biodegradable plastics are bio-based. And even biodegradable plastics might not biodegrade in every environment. Sounds confusing? It certainly is.

 

Bioplastics might not be good for the environment because of these reasons

In addition to that, Ensia also listed some example bioplastics, how we can compost them and the possibility of composting them, even. We state an example: PLA.

Toย Frederik Wurm, a chemist at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPIP), drinking straws made from PLA are โ€œthe perfect example for greenwashing.โ€ They are more expensive than other plastic drinking straws, but donโ€™t readily biodegrade on a beach or in the sea.

For biodegradation, PLA needs industrial composting conditions, including temperaturesย above 58 ยฐC (136 ยฐF). It needs to be properly managed and routed to specialized industrial composting or recycling facilities. Under the right circumstances, microbes can turn the material into carbon dioxide and water within a couple of weeks. However, if it becomes littered or dumped, PLA sticks around for much longer. When pure PLA ends up in seawater, it does not seem to biodegrade at all.

Read their article we have linked to learn more about them.

 

Conclusion

Now, are bioplastics really good for the environment?

The answer: they can be if processed the correct way. We have to follow certain guidelines and take into consideration factors such as place and temperature. This, in turn, make it a bit complicated to biodegrade them.

More research needs to be done to make bioplastics the most viable option when it comes to maintaining the environment.

 

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