Products made from bioplastic look, behave and feel like conventional clear plastic products. The use of bioplastics has become increasingly popular. Let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages.
The pros of bioplastics
- Bioplastics are made from plant raw materials instead of petroleum oil, the raw material used to make conventional plastics.
- Plant raw materials are renewable and sustainable unlike oil which is a limited and finite resource.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bioplastics are biodegradable and compostable.
- Bioplastics offer a variety of zero waste end of life options. Bioplastics can be recycled with conventional plastics, 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. The additional benefit of composting is that biogas (a renewable energy source) can be collected from the composting system.
The cons of bioplastics
We’ve included arguments against bioplastics because some of the cons require debunking.
- 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 “plastics” from hemp, seaweed and other plants. As the market grows, we hope to see a move away from using edible plants in the manufacture of biodegradable packaging materials.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bioplastics are not the answer to marine litter. We agree. Bioplastics are not the answer to marine litter.