How organic biodegradable plastics are changing the world
Our April 16, 2019 blog post introduced a growing option relative to biodegradable plastic bags, and these being a potential saviour in the global fight for reduced impacts on our environment.
We have all seen the images and videos of plastic waste in our landfills and in our oceans that will not degrade for decades or even centuries. There is no denying this is a problem and a distinct challenge.
Not a new problem
It has been purported that since the invention of plastic in 1846, we have created over 8 billion metric tonnes of the material for every application imaginable.
The challenges of plastics, in general, continue due to our insatiable demand as consumers
It has been commented in some arenas, that there are 5 countries responsible for causing 60% of the plastic pollution in our oceans, and that these countries, contrary to the growing concerns with plastics, are increasing their plastic production. This is made more of a severe issue as they have little to no recycling or waste infrastructure in place.
With this said though, there is still debate about whether it may be misguided to think that paper-based packaging (for example) is eco-friendlier than some plastics.
Is this potentially a misguided perception formed on the basic assumption that paper-based products are made from renewable resources, are biodegradable and generally recyclable?
Whilst this is a completely logical perception, enhanced by the fact paper is a renewable resource, the problem with this lies in the fact that paper-based products can consume significantly more resources to process and manufacture, not to mention the availability impacts of this resource on a global basis.
Conversely, plastics are far cheaper and less resource-hungry to produce, and there is no denying, that there is a significantly complex conundrum in play as to the strength of plastics as a stalwart and widely used medium, this is also its undeniable weakness. That conundrum comes in the form of its durability. Phenomenally good during the product’s useful life, a severe burden once that life has passed.
The best of both worlds
Whilst this is simply raised as a point for consideration, we want to focus this month on further developments within the eco-friendly plastics space, an area that is gaining momentum and continuing to produce intriguing options for the good of the environment and the sustainability inclined.
The expansion of the use of Oxo-Biodegradable bags which we highlighted earlier this year, has continued to grow, with this form of bag fast establishing itself as a viable eco-friendly option in many areas of our communities.
It is important to note that Oxo-biodegradable plastics can appear in many forms, from supermarket shopping bags to retail carry bags, plastic coat hangers and many other day-to-day items.
The introduction of unique additives to the plastic raw materials during the extrusion process essentially creates a bio-degradable product, from what was traditionally a product that has significant environmental challenges.
Constantly improving technology
But Oxo-biodegradable plastics and bags are not the only options.
Science & Technology never sleeps, ideas evolve, and new, improved or enhanced offerings expand.
During our continued efforts to research and find alternatives in the sustainable product space, a positive adaptation of the Oxo-biodegradable theme has been developed.
Break-Down Plastics (BDP), is the brainchild of a Canadian company intently focussed on bringing other options to the market in the fight for eco-friendly/ sustainable plastic offerings.
This product should be of great interest to the garment and packaging industry.
Working in a similar manner to Oxo-biodegradable plastics, a unique additive is again included with the raw plastic extrusion process which in turn is converted into many common finished products we all use every day.
However, BDP introduces another level to the area of sustainability.
From extensive research and industry consultation, BDP have perfected a technology that is essentially an organic masterbatch additive that now provides the unique feature of allowing plastics to be suitable for comparatively rapid biodegradation in a landfill.
BDP is not only an enhanced solution for plastic, but also products involving rubber, foam and many synthetic fabrics.
Natural degradation over dramatically shorter time frames is promoted in biologically active, and anaerobic environments. These environments are anywhere that specific microbes exist to consume the treated plastics.
The most common of these environments is the traditional landfill and the likes of the ocean floor, swamps and ditches. These very common microbes will begin to consume the products once they meet each other, facilitated through enzymatic processes producing the same remnants as other decaying matter.
How is that for creating a natural end of life process for plastics?
Reducing greenhouse gasses
Additionally, BDP incorporated into plastics helps to create energy in landfills of anaerobic digesters in the form of methane capture. It does not promote the generation of methane as most other landfill waste does, it helps to consume the gasses, surely an additional positive for the overall environment and reduction of harmful greenhouse gases.
How about the consideration of traditional community recycling processes?
As we know it is easy to contaminate traditional recycling streams, essentially ruining precious recyclable plastics. Contaminated plastic is not recycled by waste collectors and must be sent to a landfill or incinerated. One piece of contaminated plastic in a recycling bin is enough to taint the entire bin’s worth of plastic, contributing to the global situation of having extremely low recycling rates for plastic.
But, are BDP based plastics suitable for inclusion in normal recycling processes?
The answer is yes.
BDP does not affect or contaminate recycling programmes in its own form, so setting aside the base issue of contamination, it is quite safe for BDP plastics to be processed through traditional recycling streams, where the base plastic-type is accepted and contaminant free.
So overall, this is another real option for consideration in the fight for our environment, especially as far as plastic bags are concerned.
It would be unwise to blindly accept that paper-based products (for example) are the only alternative to rid the planet of its plastics problems.
It is one option of course, but it needs to be accepted that there are other extremely viable alternatives which are targeted to keep the same benefits we are accustomed too. But one that is extremely conscious of the potential impacts on the environment, yet provides a mechanism to help combat these impacts.
We can assist you to take the first step in sustainability
We are invested in expanding our offerings of environmentally sound products to suit your unique expectations. This is a significant topic evolving daily and everyone is learning as part of this evolution.
Whilst some concessions and departures away from traditional aesthetics and structures may be required to get on board the eco-friendly caravan, options and new offerings to break away from these traditional ways are emerging quite quickly and becoming more price accessible.
We are here to help and guide our clients.
If you want to move your business in the right direction when it comes to sustainability, then speak to your local immago team member to start the path.