You have more than likely heard about different biodegradable plastic products and packaging such as biodegrable bags, gloves, forks, spoons and how they are friendly to the environment, reducing emissions. But how much do you really know about them? Today, we are going to investigate some facts about biodegradable plastics products.
1. What are biodegradable plastic products?
Biodegradable plastic products are those that are made from materials that offer high compostability to be decomposed by living organism into water, Carbon Dioxide, and into organic particles in the natural environment or by an industrial process without causing harm to the surrouding environment. There are some terms and important concepts in biodegradeable plastic products that are worth knowing such as:
- Bioplastic: A catergory of plastic products that comes from biological sources such as corn starch, vegetables. This catergory of plastic can be either biodegradable or non-biodegradable.
- Bio-based/ plant-based: A product that is composed of or in significant amount of biological materials such as corn, flax, soybeans. Bio-based and plant-based can be either biodegradable or non-biodegradable.
- Biodegradable: The ability to be decomposed. In many cases, this does not imply that products can be decomposed naturally or by composting process but it can also imply that the product can be decomposed industrially, by human intervention.
- Compostable: The ability to be decomposed naturally.
- Degradable: The ability to be broken down. However, it does not imply biodegradability.
- Photodegradable: The ability to be broken down by the use of sun light.
- OXO-biodegradable plastic: Plastic that is made with additives that allow fragmentatinon through the oxidation process. The additives are often prodegradant catalyst or made from corn powder to weaken the structure of the plastic, making it easier to be broken down. This is a controversial type of plastic in whether it can be called biodegradable since it only breaks down into microplastic, which cannot be proven to be completely decomposed by bacteria or bio-organism.
- Hydro-biodegradable plastic: Plastic made from biological or vegetables materials that can only be decompose in an industrial condition. In addition, there are two composting process that are worth mentioning:
- Commercial composting: Composting process to decompose biodegradable plastic products in an industrial setting. The process usually last 21 days with temperature above 60ºC and last at least 7 days. It is a much faster process than home composting. However, not all cities has this facility.
Home composting: Composting process carried out in a household setting.
2. How to recognize, classify and differentiate biodegradable plastic products?
There are not many straightforward ways that we can recognize a biodegradable plastic products. However, there have been many conventions and certified process to help us do that. Therefore, based on these labels on a products, we can regconize the products as followings:
- Biogradable Product institute (BPI): Product will decompose safety in specific industrial or commercial setting.
- European Bioplastic: Product will decompose safety in specific industrial or commercial setting.
- OK bio based: Product made from vegetables, which implies that it may not decompose at all.
- OK compost: Product will decompose safety in specific industrial or commercial setting.
- OK compost HOME: Product will decompose with home composting.
- OK biodegradable SOIL: Product will decompose when burried.
- OK biodegradable WATER: Product will decompose in water (Does not imply that it will decompose in sea water).