We see that selling products in biodegradable plastic has become popular in many big stores in the Netherlands. Many people talk about biodegradable plastic toothbrushes but are they actually biodegradable?
Let’s dive deeper into this topic. We collect some useful information for you.
What does “biodegradable” mean?
“Compostable and biodegradable are often used interchangeably. But they’re not the same thing. Biodegradable means that a product can be broken down WITHOUT oxygen and that it turns into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass within a reasonable amount of time. Now, reasonable is not really defined, but WAY less than 1000 years, which is how long it takes some plastics” – Earth911
“Recent research has revealed that biodegradable plastic bags are still intact after 3 years spent either at sea or buried underground” –Irish Examiner
The biodegradable plastic which marked as “compostable” means that it should be kept in specific conditions such as heat, moisture, air and microorganisms.
“Plastic defined as “biodegradable” is made of molecules that can break down naturally, but there is no particular timescale specified for this degradation – under some conditions it can take many years.
Some biodegradable plastic is also said to be “compostable”, and in this case it must adhere to stricter standards. One example is polylactide (PLA), which is used to make food packaging. Compostable plastic certified to European Standard EN13432 must break down under industrial composting conditions in less than 12 weeks.
An industrial composting plant supplies the necessary balance of heat, moisture, air and microorganisms to efficiently compost food and other compostable waste. But with a need for temperatures of 60°C or more…” – Irish Examiner
So, if you are thinking that you will put your biodegradable plastic into compost and wait until it disappears – We’ve got a bad news. It will not. Furthermore, it can be harmful as typical plastic made from fossil fuels.
What does “compostable” mean?
“Compostable plastics are typically made from some type of renewable raw material. Corn starch is one of the most common materials, but there are many other options. Regardless of what compostable plastic is made from, it’s transformed into a polymer that looks and feels like traditional plastic but compostable plastics can be still difficult to recycle. They require commercial/industrial composting facilities. Not all recycling facilities have these composting capabilities.” – Earth911
What does “biobased” plastics mean?
United States Environmental Protection Agency write on their website: “Biobased plastics are manufactured from plant materials instead of being made from oil or natural gas. Because they are plant based, there is a tendency to assume that this type of plastic must be biodegradable. However, biobased plastics can be designed to be structurally identical to petroleum based plastics, and if designed in this way, they can last in the environment for the same period of time as petroleum based plastic. Just as with petroleum-based plastics, biobased plastic can be engineered to be biodegradable or to be compostable.
Sorry, maybe it’s too much even for us. The only one thing that we know for sure – CHECK information on the package before you buy.
The best advice which we can give you is to avoid plastic as much as you can. We can buy less, rethink our consumption habits, choose consciously, use our own containers and plastic bags which are still at our home, buy locally, share the information and inspire family and friends.
Keep moving! Together we are the power!