Biodegradable plastics have two classes. These are bioplastics which are made from renewable raw materials and plastics that come from petrochemicals that have biodegradable additives. Created to minimize pollution from plastic pollutants, these plastic types will turn to compost after a certain period of time. However, there are upsides and downsides to the use of these materials.
List of Advantages of Biodegradable Plastics
1. Carbon Emission Reduction
One of the advantages related to the use of biodegradable plastics is the minimal emission of carbon in the air during the process of manufacturing bioplastics. As opposed to the normal manufacturing of plastics that create four tons of emissions, bioplastics only emit approximately .8 tons of carbon that add to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
2. Consumes Less Energy
The manufacturing process of biodegradable plastics requires less amount of energy and does not need fossil fuels to be recycled. Conversely, traditional plastics demand more energy in production and at the same time requires the burning of fossil fuel. Since less energy is needed, more bioplastics can be produced while there is less pollution in the environment.
3. Less Landfill Area Needed
Plastics that are non-biodegradable are brought to landfills to discard them. Consequently, land area that could have been used for agriculture, residence or industrial applications is instead converted to landfills. If bioplastics are used, there is no need to add more landfills since these plastics can be absorbed by the soil and be converted to compost or humus.
Apart from taking less time to break down when discarded, biodegradable plastics can also be recycled and are non-toxic since they contain no chemicals or toxins compared to other types of plastics that can emit harmful chemicals, especially if burned.
List of Disadvantages of Biodegradable Plastics
1. Need for Composters
The flipside of using biodegradable plastics is that there will be a need for industrial composters to turn them into composts and availability of the equipment in some countries can be a problem. Apart from the cost, not all countries have the proper equipment especially if this is not the priority of the government. In the end, the bioplastics that need to be processed will not be discarded properly.
2. Engineering Issues
These bioplastics are plant-based and this means that they come from organic sources from farms such as soybeans and corn. However, these organic plants are sprayed with pesticides which contain chemicals that can contaminate the crops and be transferred or included in the finished product.
3. Risk of Contamination
Biodegradable plastics should not be mixed with non-biodegradable plastics when thrown in garbage bins. The problem here is that not all people know how to segregate or distinguish bioplastics from other plastic types. Once these two types of plastics are mixed together, these bioplastics become contaminated and cannot be used anymore. Consequently, these contaminated bioplastics will end in landfills and add to the volume of thrash.
Biodegradable plastics are becoming popular these days because of the increasing awareness on global warming and environmental issues. Despite having disadvantages, it will help to focus on the benefits of using bioplastics and on educating the people on its importance and effects on a global scale.