#ThinkBioplastic uses science and facts
to show you that there is a
bioplastic solution to the plastic problem.
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Don’t be scared of the science; bioplastics are actually very simple. There are two main categories:
Some bioplastics are both bio-based and biodegradable. And the best thing about them is that they can often replace environmentally unfriendly traditional plastic products – what we call petro-plastics.
They can reduce the use of fossil fuels which are used to make traditional petro-plastics.
They can biodegrade or compost at the end of their useful life and so reduce pollution to the environment.
They can lock up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere whereas petro-plastics release this from underground sources: this helps fight climate change.
Lots of people don’t know that traditional petro-plastics are made from crude oil: the raw material of petrol and diesel. In fact, as much as 6% of every oil barrel is consumed by the plastics industry. That’s the same as the amount used globally for aviation fuel. Crude oil is a finite resource, so using it to make plastics isn’t always a sustainable production process for our planet.
As well as all that, non-biodegradable plastics cause damage to the natural world; littering our beaches, killing wildlife, piling up on landfill sites and filling our oceans. They’re accumulating in the environment because they’re synthetic, and the organisms on our planet haven’t evolved to effectively digest the chemicals.
So why do we have them in the first place? Because during their lifetime, they are lightweight, strong, durable and protective. They are actually very useful.
However, it’s their creation and disposal which cause great damage; but bioplastics are nowhere near as harmful.
Recycling plastic reduces the use of precious resources and the negative impact of surplus plastic on the environment.
However, although nearly all types of plastics can be recycled, the majority are not. This is due to the complicated logistics and cost of collection, and the contamination of mixed plastics. Unfortunately, this means that many plastic products cannot be effectively recycled.
Biodegradable bioplastics offer an environmentally friendly solution – but they won’t simply biodegrade if you put them on landfill or in your local woodland. They often need to be collected with food or garden waste and composted in specialist facilities.
In every case, recycling and collection systems need to be vastly improved.
It often takes hundreds and sometimes thousands of years for non-biodegradable plastics to break down. Sometimes this means that they just get smaller and smaller, until they’re tiny enough to become microplastics. At this size they can filter into the food chain, which isn’t safe (or tasty) for human health.
However, microorganisms can completely convert biodegradable bioplastics back to their natural building blocks with no harmful effects.
These organic materials feed into agricultural products, which in turn enable the materials which make up bioplastics to grow, ultimately replacing the need for petro-plastics.