Plastics have revolutionised how we live our lives. From sanitation, food safety to packaging and health care, they have made life easier but come with a heavy price tag on the environment.
Plastic trash is one of the biggest environmental issues faced by humanity today. What’s more, despite the awareness and effort regarding plastic waste, only 8% of 31 million tons of wastes are recycled. Plastic is the third most common petroleum-based product used in the world. Unfortunately, this type of plastic is non-renewable and non-biodegradable.
The drive to create a better environment has led to the invention of various biodegradable bags. This means that these bags can now decompose naturally with the help of bacteria and other living organisms. When these bags are broken down naturally, they can help solve the plastic waste issue and protect animals and plants alike.
The Contributions of Biodegradable Bags
Biodegradable bags or bioplastics are a step towards sustainable use of plastic. They can help save the environment through the following:
Sustainable food packaging
Proper food packaging is essential because it ensures hygienic practices for the safety of the consumers. Sadly, plastic use from food packaging is among the contributors to plastic pollution. However, with bioplastic technology, food hygiene and safety can be achieved while reducing the amount of trash.
Produce fewer greenhouse gases
Biodegradable bags produce fewer greenhouse gases when manufactured compared to typical plastic bags. A study in 2017 showed bioplastics can cut up to 25% gas emissions. Given that a majority of these bioplastics are plant-based, they produce minimal carbon emissions.
Use less energy
Biodegradable bags use less energy when manufactured which means lesser use of fossil fuel. The environmental impact is significantly reduced because bioplastic doesn’t need an immense amount of energy to create.
Less sea pollution
Biodegradable bags can solve one of our pressing issues regarding sea pollution. The majority of trash eventually ends up in the sea which poses a serious threat to sea animals. Biodegradable bags won’t end up in the sea because aside from having the ability to decompose naturally, bioplastics can easily break down when in contact with water. Therefore, they present a better alternative in helping us address the plastic waste pollution we are dealing with right now.
What is bioplastic?
Bioplastics are produced using biological sources, such as sugarcane, tree cellulose or potato starch. Certain bioplastics are not only biodegradable but also compostable. They are equally strong, flexible and resistant just like the typical plastic. These plastics can be utilised in different industries, such as food packaging, agriculture or medicine.
Some of the different types of bioplastics are the following:
Made from corn or potato starch, this is the most common type. With pure starch plastic being delicate, the starch is often mixed with biodegradable polyester for better resistance and durability. This bioplastic can be seen in the packaging industry, including bakeries, magazines, fruits and vegetables and other consumer goods.
Aliphatic polyester bioplastics
Aliphatic polyester bioplastics are produced using bio-based polyesters, such as PHA, PHH, PHB and PHV, and they are highly biodegradable and sensitive to water. These plastics are often mixed with other polymers so they will be durable when used for other purposes. Aliphatic bioplastic is popular in the field of medicine and pharmaceutical and is used in wound closure, sutures, implants and drug delivery.
This type of bioplastic is made from cellulose esters and their derivatives. These materials are often the residue of plant materials or by-products of agricultural materials. Cellulose bioplastic is used as electronic sheets, eyeglass frames and thermoplastic. It is also a popular moulding material.
Protein-based bioplastic is made from various sources of protein, such as soy, wheat gluten and milk. Soy protein plastic is one of the oldest, being produced for 100 years. An example is the body panels in Ford automobiles which are made from soy protein. Protein-based bioplastic is also the leading choice in food packaging for its protein-based films and coatings.
The amount of plastic waste in the sea and land is immense. However, things can change when we take even a small step forward, such as using biodegradable bags. Yes, you can make a difference today; opt for environmentally friendly packaging in Australia.