Is biodegradable plastic really biodegradable?
Do you wonder whether biodegradable plastic is really biodegradable?
This article is part of my project
"Fascinating facts about nature and sustainability"
crediting scientific research in easy to understand articles.
Biodegradable plastic is often seen as a very environmentally friendly alternative to plastic. But it is often not so biodegradable as you may think.
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Thank you for sharing your views. It has been known for a while that so-called bio-degradable material is not necessarily what one assumes. A basic and often forgotten fact is that all material, both man-made and otherwise, are degradable. It is more of a question of how long it takes for such a change - even uranium will degrade to lead.
Bio-degradable plastic follows a similar trajectory, given the right conditions for that particular composition, the plastic will degrade. What is often forgotten is that these conditions may not always be present. On the other hand, if we did not have certain conditions, we would not be in a position to recover artefacts from this planet.
The question(s) we need to ask ourselves is the following: What are we planning to achieve with this new material, what is the effort required to get this material and what do we plan to do, when this material no longer serves its purpose?
Using an analogy here: Humans have phases in their lives and, today, these are considered to be productive or non-productive (there is no judgment or evaluation on my part here). Productivity is a human term, it is not the same as evolution.
Instead of focussing on the technical evaluation of bio-degradability of plastic, we could consider the effect our need for packaging - whichever form it takes - has on the environment and fellow human beings. That is because packaging is often a convenience.
Thank you for adding your views to this Prith! The plastic issue is a very important topic, which we can look at from different points of view and you mentioned several. Some can be picked up by customers (e.g. do I buy products with packaging?) and others by producers (e.g. what do we want to achieve with this new material). It shows to me again that we can all make a difference.