Our planet is today the victim of a whole century of plastic consumption, a material that has changed our way of life but with which we have not been able to deal adequately. Fortunately, more and more people are trying to choose better alternatives.
It is increasingly common to see plastics described as biodegradable or compostable, but that does not mean that one can not worry about how they are disposed of.
Dr. Imogen Napper is a marine scientist, and she confesses that “when I hear the word ‘biodegradable’, what I think of is an apple disappearing in a matter of weeks.”
And is that Dr. Napper has carried out a series of tests with which she shows how different plastic bags degrade in different environments: “We buried them in the ground, we submerged them in the sea, we hung them outside … And not all bags disappeared completely in all settings “, reveals the scientist. “Some biodegradable bags disappeared in the ocean, but not necessarily on the ground, and our study showed that after three years, most of these bags could still be used to carry shopping.”
Biodegradable only in theory
Faced with this study, the leaders of the bioplastics industry point out that these bags were not really biodegradable. Hasso von Pogrell, CEO of European Bioplastics, explains that “one of them was declared biodegradable, but in reality it was not. The other was correctly labeled as compostable. And in fact, it worked very well and even biodegraded in water. and in the soil, although it was only certified that it biodegraded in a composting facility. “
And that’s where the fundamental question lies: compostable and biodegradable is not the same: “These bags often need to go to a really specific place to decompose,” recalls Imogen Napper, “like an industrial composter where it is very hot and humid. for a total decomposition “.
Pay attention to labeling
We know that there is the option of depositing food waste in a special container that the town hall collects. But what about compostable plastics? Do we put them or not put them in those containers? Von Pogrell clarifies that “many composting facilities do not know that these plastics biodegrade fast enough to be put in with food. So to make sure no plastic gets into their composting facilities, they often say they want to avoid any kind of plastic. “
Von Pogrell also explains to us what we can do to better know if these materials really decompose: “The labeling would be the first thing to look at, and then it would be necessary to understand what it really means. The seedling label that European Bioplastics has and the two labels that the certifiers have. But that does not exclude the possibility that people have also been misusing those labels “, laments the highest authority of European Bioplastics.
Above all these explanations, there is a golden rule that must be followed yes or yes: no plastic should be thrown into the environment.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.