Biodegradable plastic: What you need to know

Posted on December 10, 2012 by DrRossH in Landfills and Disposal

Biodegradable plastic: What you need to know | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

This article was written by someone with an agenda that is clear.  Most of it is not true.  Most modern landfills do biodegrade matter.  How do we know this is true?  Even above he mentioned methane production and CO2 production, –  that is a landfill at work.  If it stayed as a Dry Tomb, there would not be these gases coming off.  A modern landfill recirculates the leachate which enhances biogas production quite significantly.  Anaerobic gas production is what we want in these landfills.  As this produces methane, an energy dense clean burning fuel that can be harnessed to displace carbon fuels for electricity production.  Yes the methane has to be collected and that is what modern landfills do.   They supply renewable energy.  The author above forgot to mention that.

Most Bioplastics will not biodegrade in a landfill.   It is not hot enough and lacks oxygen.  They only biodegrade in a commercial compost facility which are few and far between and almost not accessible by consumers.  Therefore the concept of a bioplastic is greenwashing which this author did get right.  Even if they are sent to a commercial compost facilities they biodegrade to CO2 and so any of that internal molecular energy is lost forever.  That is a waste.

With 96% of plastics not recycled, it means they go to landfills (or the ocean)where they will last 100’s of years. Every piece of plastic ever made unless it has been incinerated still exists somewhere. If we made them biodegradable (not to be confused with a bioplastic – a plastic made from plants) , they would only last 10 years or so in most landfills that have some rainfall.  In many ways plastic should be classed as a restricted product due to its last forever properties that can seriously pollute our lands and waters. 

The trick is to make the plastics biodegradable.  Some bioplastics actually are landfill-biodegradable, or you can add a food additive to the plastic at the time of manufacturer to make it attractive for microorganisms to want to come and digest.  This is a slow process taking multiple years, but far better than the non biodegradable last-forever option we have now.

The main point the author above did get right is that we have to reduce our use of plastic, especially disposable plastic for consumers as that is a large portion of the plastic waste made every year.   What do we think people in 300 years will say when they see OUR Coke bottles and grocery store plastic bags spread far and wide over their lands and waters.