12 July 2018

Bio-Plastics

Bio-Plastics

A solution to the plastic crisis?

Following on from our recent blog about compostable cups, we thought it would be good to continue the conversation on bio-plastics.

Bio-plastics are made from organic materials like starch and cellulose from corn and sugarcane, whereas regular plastic is made from petroleum which comes from oil.

In response to the global plastic crisis, many businesses have made the decision to replace single use plastic items with bio-plastic in order to reduce marine plastic pollution and fossil fuel extraction.

Moving away from single use plastics is of course the direction we need to be going in, but is bio-based the right way to go?

Before we go any further, let's clear up the difference between compostable and biodegradable;

Biodegradable means the material will break down but it could take 100's of years to fully decompose.

Compostable means the material can be used to produce nutrient rich soil when broken down in special compost conditions.

Bio-plastic materials do not break down the same way as an apple core or orange peel. Considering this, bio-plastics will not biodegrade in a way that solves the problem of plastic litter if they end up in hedgerows or along beaches. If leaked into oceans, bio-plastics will end up doing as much harm as regular plastic to marine life.

This is why we continue to promote reuse, like the Conscious Cup Campaign, over any single use.

Bio-based plastics are a relatively new material, there is not yet any facility to repurpose or recycle these materials so bio-plastics cannot be recycled.

The best way to dispose of bio-plastics or plant-based materials is in an industrial composter so they can be broken down in the correct conditions to be made into nutrient rich soil which is then used as feed for growing food and plants.

Unfortunately, bio and plant based materials will not break down in a home garden composter as they require high temperature conditions. If you use bio-plastic packaging make sure to dispose of it in your brown bin (organic collection bin) so it can be taken to an industrial composter. 

Another case for concern is the lack of education and awareness around these new materials being brought onto the market and the misleading marketing around them. It can be hard to differentiate between bio-plastic and petroleum plastic, assuming you've even heard of bio-plastic in the first place.

With the growing interest in bio-plastics we need improved infrastructure to collect and process the waste and to create awareness to consumers to avoid further harm to our environment and wildlife.

Instead of taking a compostable coffee cup, why not invest in a reusable cup and join the Conscious Cup Campaign!