Due to environmental concerns surrounding traditional plastics made from petroleum, there has been much effort made to create better alternatives. Bioplastic is a substance that comes from organic biomass sources. There are many different processes of production for bioplastics and the microorganisms that are used to process the base materials range.
The different microorganisms that are most commonly used include vegetable oil, starch, acid, alcohol and cellulose. The main benefit of bioplastics when compared to conventional plastics is the lower amount of carbon dioxide produced. This means that bioplastics are more eco-friendly, but it is important to note that they are not completely green. Here is a look at the top pros and cons of bioplastics.
What Are the Pros of Bioplastics?
1. Made from Renewable Energy Sources
One of the main benefits that bioplastics provide is the ability to use renewable energy sources during production. Conventional plastics rely on petroleum, which is a non-renewable energy source. Since bioplastics can be made using renewable energy sources, they are so much more environmentally friendly and have a less substantial impact on the world we live in. Getting away from depending on petroleum for plastic production is key and bioplastics allow this to be possible.
Traditional plastics and can take thousands of years to decompose, but that is not the case with many types of bioplastic. Many plastics are actually biodegradable and some can decompose fully in just 180 days, which is so much better than conventional plastics. The biodegradable benefit is one that should not be overlooked. If we make the switch to bioplastics, plastic will not be a huge source of pollution or take up so much space in our landfills.
3. Big Corporate Supporters
Sometimes it is difficult for eco-friendly alternatives to go mainstream, because they are not backed by big corporations. However, that is not the case with bioplastics. The investment being made surrounding the research and production of bioplastics is funded by corporate dollars. This means that not only will production techniques improve, but the entire process surrounding bioplastics will be made better.
What Are the Cons of Bioplastics?
1. Shelf Life is Capped
Since there are different types of bioplastics, there are different shelf lifes that should be understood. Some of the most sustainable bioplastics have a limited shelf life, which is not ideal for many companies looking for the right type of packaging.
2. Not Completely Biodegradable
It is wrong to assume that all bioplastics are biodegradable. This is not the case. If the main benefit is the ability to decompose quickly, not all bioplastics live up to the hype. There are a few types that are biodegradable, but not all of them are.
3. Recycling Methods Disturbed
Another downside to the production and use of bioplastics is the belief that they will interfere with traditional recycling methods. Since they have to be disposed of in new ways, bioplastics may upset existing recycling methods and have a bad impact on the environment as a result.
Why Aren’t Bioplastics Green?
Even though there is much less carbon dioxide produced during the production of bioplastics, there is still a product footprint left behind. For example, The method that is required for the base material to be grown leaves a product footprint and bioplastics do release small amounts of carbon dioxide during the biodegrading process. However, even when you take into account all these factors, it is still safe to say that bioplastics are much better for the environment.
180 Day Breakdown
Bioplastics are so innovative and eco-friendly that there are some biodegradable plastics that can breakdown in just 180 days. Of course, this requires just the right conditions and there are some bioplastics that are not biodegradable. Since there are different types of bioplastics each has a different breakdown process and timeline.
Why Were Bioplastics Developed?
Bioplastics are an alternative to conventional plastics and were developed to lessen the impact of many problems surrounding conventional plastics. Not only do conventional plastics take thousands of years for decomposing to complete, but they are also a huge presence in landfills. The pollution problem can be linked to conventional plastics and they are made from petroleum, which is a non-renewable energy source. This doesn’t even take into account that conventional plastics also have a large carbon footprint. With all the downsides associated with traditional plastics, the need for bioplastics has been enormous.
Still Relatively New
Even though there is quite a lot of buzz surrounding bioplastics and the benefits that they can offer, this type of organic plastic is still in the infancy stage. Right now, it only accounts for less than 2% of the total plastic produced. This is a small percentage, but it is growing by the day and bioplastics are gaining popularity and use. Standard plastics made from petroleum might not be the norm much longer.