The Benefits and Drawbacks of Biodegradable Plastics
Today, we struggle to even envision a world without plastics. Plastic is used by us in many different ways, including bags, water bottles, food containers, and more. As a result, plastic is now practically ubiquitous. These plastics are poisoning our oceans even causing microplastics to contaminate our drinking water.
We are all aware of the serious threat that plastic poses to the environment, harming both people and animals worldwide. Yet we continue to use it. Bioplastics have been created in order to provide environmentally beneficial alternatives to the severe effects of plastic waste.
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Regular or Traditional Plastics and Biodegradable Plastics are the two primary categories of plastics. Regular Plastic and Biodegradable Plastic differ primarily in that the latter is more environmentally friendly than the former and will naturally decompose when exposed to the environment because the materials that go into making biodegradable plastic can be broken down by environmental microorganisms.
Biodegradable Plastics are typically made from Petrochemicals using renewable basic ingredients and biodegradable additives. After certain amount of time, these polymers decompose into compost and create the least amount of pollution. Biodegradable Plastics are being produced using all-natural plant ingredients, such as plants, maize oil, starches, or even citrus fruit peels. As a result, utilizing chemical fillers is no longer necessary because their breakdown poses a threat to the environment.
Solid and injection-molded biodegradable plastics are the two types available. The melting down of all the materials is the first step in its manufacturing process. The materials is then poured into molds in a variety of shapes, including plastic water bottles, cutlery, and more. Items like bags, water bottles, food containers, leaf gathering bags, and other items made from the solid forms.
Consumers today are more likely to adopt biodegradable plastics due to rising environmental and global warming awareness. For your information, the benefits and drawbacks of this type of environmentally friendly plastic are covered in full.
Benefits of Biodegradable Plastics
- Less Carbon Emission
The finest feature of biodegradable plastics at the moment is that little carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere during the production of bioplastics, which reduces the greenhouse impact and contributes to global warming. Five tons of carbon dioxide are released during the production of one ton of ordinary plastics.
We use more than 100 million tons of plastic annually on average. According to the typical 5:1 production ratio, this sector annually emits 500 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is equivalent to 19 million vehicles’ yearly emissions. However, only about.8 tons of carbon are emitted during the production of one ton of bioplastics. In comparison to normal plastic, it is considerably less and produces 68 percent fewer greenhouse emissions during manufacture.
- Less Energy Consumption and Less Petroleum
Biodegradable polymers are produced with less energy than conventional plastics, which are produced with a lot more energy. The energy needed to produce biodegradable plastic of the same quantity and quality uses 65 percent less than that needed to produce plastic made from crude petroleum.
As we replace petroleum with products like switchgrass or corn, we become less dependent on it, and at the same time, we can limit the use of petroleum to other things like transportation and heating.
In addition to these benefits, the production of biodegradable plastic does not necessitate the same lengthy technology as that of conventional plastic, which involves burning fossil fuels. As a result, with the same amount of energy, more bioplastics may be generated than traditional plastics, which also results in less environmental contamination.
- Less Breakdown Time
While biodegradable plastics use alternative materials, specialized enzymes, or chemicals to break down the content between three and six months after exposure to the elements, regular plastic takes an incredibly long time—more than hundreds of years—to break down once discarded.
Bioplastics are the subject of ongoing research and development by scientists. Compared to conventional plastic materials, which increase landfill waste and endanger animals, this new technology has a number of advantages.
- Less Waste and Fewer Landfills
32 million tons of plastic waste are produced annually, which accounts for 13% of all waste at present. Only 9 percent of these are recycled, while the remaining normal plastic waste is deposited in landfills. Landfills cause a variety of issues, such as the spread of diseases that are detrimental to both humans and animals and the environment.
Additionally, more and more land is required for these wastes when it could have been used for industrial, residential, or agricultural purposes. Because bioplastics are absorbed by the soil and transformed into compost or humus, using them will help us solve the landfill problem and reduce trash.
- No Release of Toxins or Chemicals
In contrast to other varieties of ordinary plastics, biodegradable plastics are non-toxic because they don’t contain carbon, any chemicals, or poisons. Carbon, methane, chemical compounds, and other types of contaminants are held in regular plastics. They leak carbon dioxide, dangerous chemicals, and other pollutants into the atmosphere when they are discarded and start to deteriorate, or when they are melted, burned, or recycled.
They might also include substances that could be harmful to our health. Contrarily, biodegradable polymers don’t emit any toxins, carbon, or other harmful pollutants.
- Natural Decomposition
Compostable indicates that biodegradable plastics break down into organic compounds and mix with soil. Bacteria and fungus, which are naturally existing microorganisms in the environment, are responsible for this breakdown. These bacteria easily break down the biodegradable plastic’s structure and metabolize the plastics, which is good for the environment. Some things even degrade in weeks rather than months or years. One must check the labels of the bioplastic products before purchasing to make sure they degrade quickly.
- New Combination
Once the natural elements have been converted into polymers for use in creating biodegradable plastics, they can be combined with those created utilizing oil molecules. As a result, it can lower the proportion that is derived from fossil fuels, and this blended product frequently has more strength than the standard one.
- Easily Recyclable
In order to reduce the growing amount of plastic waste and greenhouse gas emissions from industry production, biodegradable plastics can be easily recycled. The net carbon savings from recycling might reach 30%, and according to other academics, the savings from switching to biodegradable plastics could reach as much as 80%.
Drawbacks of Biodegradable Plastics
- High Cost of Production
Given that the production of biodegradable plastics has a capital cost that is 50% greater than that of conventional plastics, they might not be an inexpensive alternative.
- Proper Disposal Method
For biodegradable plastics, there is a special disposal process that must be followed. If not disposed of correctly and dumped in a landfill, it can disintegrate efficiently in our local environment without polluting it. Many people combine bioplastics and other plastic kinds because they are unsure of how to separate them. It is important to realize that ordinary plastic and biodegradable plastic have the same status in a landfill.
- Requirement of Composters
Industrial composters are needed to convert biodegradable plastics into composts, and in some nations, the equipment’s accessibility is a problem. Biodegradable plastics that need to be processed cannot be properly disposed of without processing if the right tools are not available.
- Weather is a Factor
Biodegradable plastics must be disposed of outside in the elements. Temperature and humidity are key factors in this process. Composting moves much more slowly throughout the winter and ceases during periods of extreme humidity. In extreme northern and equatorial temperatures, they can be properly disposed of.
- Use of Chemicals in Organic farms
Due to their plant-based composition, which includes soybean and corn, biodegradable plastics are produced on organic farms. However, these plants are sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals that can contaminate the end product and transfer to it.
- No Recycling
Combining biodegradable and oil-based molecules has the distinct drawback that our current technology cannot recycle the resulting hybrid at the end of its useful life, forcing us to dispose of it in landfills or use alternative waste management techniques.
- Use of Croplands
Instead of using croplands for food production, the production of the natural resources needed to make biodegradable plastics necessitates their use. As a result, it is a problem in developing countries and calls for other limited, expensive resources like water.
- No Solution for Ocean Pollution
Ocean pollution issues cannot be resolved by biodegradable plastics since they cannot degrade in ocean water. They will either produce microplastics, which are detrimental to marine life, or float on the water’s surface like conventional plastics.
- Release of Methane
Methane is a gas that is produced during the breakdown of some biodegradable plastics, and its potential for harm is far greater than that of CO2.