There are a lot of different plant-based plastics that are beginning to help save our lives. Supermarkets are starting to stock biodegradable bags and other biodegradable carrying bags, cafes and coffee shops are serving their food and beverages with biodegradable cups, plates, etc. There are so many different things that have gotten biodegradable and packaging these things have been easier than ever.
But, the real question is, does recycling not solve the problem that we need biodegradable plastics? Well, recycling is definitely helping out the environment; however, it is not the end-all solution for it.
Biodegradable plastics are made from the same materials as traditional petroleum-based plastics, but with even more chemicals. These chemicals help the plastic get their biodegradability.
These extra chemicals can cause the plastic to decompose faster when exposed to air and light. Due to the addition of oxidants, some degradable plastic fragments are not biodegradable.
By breaking rather than degrading, they break into small pieces that contaminate the soil, increase the risk of animal feeding, and eventually enter our oceans and waterways. This plastic cannot be recycled and reused, nor is it suitable for composting.
The word “biological” may be misleading: plastics do degrade but do not degrade into organisms. It will break into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic.
The Plastic crisis
Firstly, there is no denying that there is a plastic crisis that has been realistically been going on since revolution of plastics in the industry. A study in 2017 found that there have been over 8.3 billion tons of plastic manufactured since the 1950s and over 6 Billion of it has been thrown away. This plastic is not only here to stay for a few more hundred years (maybe a round thousand) but it’s expanding in size on a daily basis. As society becomes ever so reliable on plastics, we will see this plastic pollute our oceans, lakes and oceans.
Ban on single-use Plastics is already taking effect
There is a ban on single-use plastics that includes cups, straws, drink stirrers, cotton buds and more. These bans are coming into effect in the UK, Canada and possibly in the USA and many European countries. Canada announced that it will be banning harmful single-use plastics by 2021. There is a long list of countries that want to limit the use of disposable plastics already. In fact, there are a lot of different states that have already started to ban plastic bottles and replacing them with aluminum cans and other types of relatively less-harmful materials.
Mark Miodownik, a professor of materials and sociology at University College London, said: “What worries me is that this is not the real solution. It just replaces one polymer with another.” “If they end up living in the environment Medium, then it does depend on whether they biodegrade at any reasonable time.. However, replacing disposable plastics with biodegradable or compostable alternatives may cause more problems than fixed methods.
Making plastic from renewable materials is a step in the right direction, but it won’t stop plastic from accumulating in landfills and our oceans. Miodownik said the problem is that there is no sustainable material, only sustainable systems. And in the UK, we don’t have a sustainable system to cope with the increasing availability of compostable plastics into our daily lives.
Recycling is inefficient
First, we need to be clear: recycling is more efficient than extracting and using raw resources. Cutting down a new tree and turning hardwood into soft, bendable paper made from pulp is more energy than converting paper into recycled paper.
But recycling is still extremely inefficient! Take a plastic bottle, melt it, and re-form it into a new plastic product (or rotate it into a fleece, which is the common destiny of the water bottles you throw into the trash can), which requires a lot of energy. The best way to reduce resources? Don’t buy or use unnecessary items first: remember, it will reduce the amount first, then use it, and finally use it!
Recycling is just reclaiming resources; there is no such thing as 100% recyclable
The real recycling is the word: reclaiming resources. For example, this means you have to take a piece of paper and put it in a recycling bin.
Then process it and then turn it into new paper of the same quality. And you can do it forever. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all. For paper, every time a piece of paper is recycled, a small amount of fiber in the paper is lost, and their quality is slightly reduced.
This reduction in quality can only happen for a certain period of time before the manufacturer needs to create the product again from the ground up.
What kind of products can help the environment?
It’s not always the big things that matter and help save the environment, there are a lot of other types of products that can help save the environment.
- Bin liner, garbage bags, and biomedical waste bags
- Pet poop bags
- Biodegradable cling film
- Compostable carry/shopping bags
- Biodegradable straws, cups and utensils
- Biodegradable plastic toys, etc.
There are so many things that we can do to help save the environment; the bottles that we use, the different types of spray bottles, the toys, electronics, food containers, etc. are all wasting the environment away.
Biodegradability is a different term than compostable. Why has life never been so simple? If you are passionate about helping the planet, the complexities that sound like this can be annoying. But don’t let that disappoint you.
As many environmentalists have pointed out, there are some very simple solutions to the plastic problem that everyone can keep in mind to make a real difference.
Don’t simply send your plastic waste to recycling, but remember the words “reduction, repair, reuse, recycling.” Recycling, while valuable, is only a little better than throwing things away: you still have to use energy and water to recycle things, and you can also produce toxic waste.