The Pros and Cons of Bioplastics

Products made from bioplastic look, behave and feel like conventional clear plastic products. The use of bioplastics is becoming increasingly popular. Let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages.

The Pros of Bioplastics

  1. Bioplastics are made from plant raw materials instead of petroleum oil, the raw material used to make conventional plastics.
  2. Plant raw materials are renewable and sustainable unlike oil which is a limited and finite resource.
  3. The carbon footprint of manufacturing bioplastics is reportedly 75% lower than that of PET and PS alternatives i.e. their manufacture is kinder to the environment.
  4. Bioplastics are non-toxic and won’t leach chemicals into food. According to a study conducted by The National Center for Biotechnology Information in America; plastics (including BPA free plastics) leach estrogen-like chemicals into food.
  5. Bioplastics are biodegradable and compostable.
  6. There are a variety of zero waste end of life options for bioplastics. Bioplastics can be recycled, they can be cleanly incinerated and industrially composted.  This is makes bioplastics a great material for food packaging as used packaging does not require cleaning since food and packaging can be composted or incinerated together. An additional benefit of composting is that nutrients from food waste are returned to soil to nurture new plants, improving soil fertility and food security.

A clear PLA cup made from corn starch containing carrot juice

The Cons of Bioplastics

We’ve included arguments against bioplastics because some of the cons require debunking.

  1. Growing demand for bioplastics creates competition for food sources, contributing to the global food crisis. This is a misleading argument commonly used against bioplastics. The raw material for bioplastics is an industrial-grade corn which is not grown for human consumption.  Recent technological developments in the bioplastics industry have shown that that it is possible to make biodegradable bioplastics  from hemp, seaweed and other plants. As the market grows, we can expect to see many new innovative production approaches.
  2. Bioplastics won’t biodegrade in a landfill. Unfortunately landfills remain the last stop for many plastics. We believe the benefits of a lower carbon footprint to produce bioplastic products and the fact that they offer the potential for composting as a new way of achieving zero waste still sets them apart. There are arguments that should bioplastics end up in nature they will break down into non-toxic components. This requires a specific set of conditions, which are not always available, to be in place.
  3. Bioplastics encourage people to litter more. We hope not and do not encourage littering with our products. (Don’t let us catch you!) Littering is a human behaviour, which requires education, raised awareness, a good infrastructure to be reduced.
  4. Bioplastics contaminate plastic recycling streams. Most bioplastics are compatible with existing recycling systems. Bioplastic PET is compatible with PET recycling streams and bioplastic PE is compatible to the PE recycling stream. Recycling systems are excellent at separating different materials, and need to be because there are many different types of plastic and they all need to be separated before they have any chance of being recycled.
  5. Bioplastics are not the answer to marine litter. We agree. You can read why bioplastics are not the answer to marine litter here. 

At GREEN HOME we supply you with several types of plant-based and compostable bioplastic products. These products are made from renewable corn starch and wood cellulose.
They include our Hot Cups, which are lined with a thin layer of corn starch bioplastic to make them watertight (most disposable coffee cups are lined with non-biodegradable plastic). The Compostable Lids for our Hot Cups are also made from corn starch. We also stock clear Bioplastic Bags, Cutlery. and other products, all of which can be seen on our online shop.