Demystifying plastic: Bioplastics

Plastic is recyclable!

Although it is true that plastic is one of the biggest problems of waste generated by humans, the root of the problem is not its use itself, but the indiscriminate use and the terrible disposal that is made of it when it is finished. used.

Plastic represents more than 10% of our household waste. In general, more than three quarters of plastic containers end up in landfills without being used, only around 5% is incinerated to generate energy and less than 7% is recycled. The biodegradation of plastic is extremely difficult and this causes that, when deposited in landfills, it remains there for centuries.

By sending our plastic waste to recycling We manage to have several beneficial effects on the environment, we reduce the amount of plastic in landfills, other natural resources are saved and they can also be used, at the end of their life, as fuels to generate energy since the vast majority, those of common use , are made from oil or natural gas.

Yes, it is true that the majority of plastics, especially the inexpensive and currently most widely used, take centuries and even millennia to degrade in the soil but it is also true that the majority of plastics, properly disposed of, are valuable due to the characteristics that allow it to be reused and recycled upon disposal, again, disposing of it properly.

Composting of plastics and oxodegradable additives for plastics has been around for several decades and probably explains why they are still prevalent.

Biodegradable additives in landfills are relatively new and are still advancing in the plastics design process. They all have different characteristics and the target removal method should be carefully considered before selecting any method.

What is the difference between biodegradable and degradable?

Degradable is a general term used to denote that a product will break down into smaller parts or transform into another shape.

For example, steel degrades (rusts) into an iron oxide.

Biodegradable is a more specific term that explains the degradation process of a product. When a product biodegrades, it is digested by bacteria, fungi or algae and decomposes into a biogas (CO2 for aerobic degradation and CH4 for anaerobic degradation) and a soaked biomass or humus that produces fertilizers for plants.

Biodegradable by-products are naturally recycled in the earth's cycle.

Biodegradable plastics in landfills

Made by adding an organic additive to a conventional plastic at the time of manufacture, it is a type of plastic that allows it to be digested by natural microorganisms in the landfill.

Biodegradable plastics have many benefits for their use, beyond their degradation:

  • It will not decompose on the shelf.
  • It has no shelf life problems.
  • It can be put back into the mainstream of recycling of plastics.
  • Many have FDA approval for food packaging.
  • Consumers can dispose of it in the way they are used to disposing of garbage, that is, by placing it in a container.

Compostable plastics (BioPlastics)

They are generally made from plant materials, not petroleum products. It only biodegrades in a commercial composting facility.

When they biodegrade in a commercial composting facility, they are aerobically degraded to CO2 and biomass. What this means, however, is that the molecular energy in plastic has been lost forever and can no longer be used to generate electricity.

The combustion of plastic in a Waste to Energy plant recovers most of the energy from plastic and converts it into CO2 and steam or electricity.

Likewise the anaerobic biodegradation of a plastic in a landfill that produces methane that can be harvested and burned to produce CO2 and energy.

They are often touted as green plastics due to the origins of their plants, but they are no greener than conventional plastic if the bioplastic is sent to a commercial composting facility.

They do not biodegrade in a normal landfill since they need oxygen, high temperatures (> 60 ° C) and humidity to biodegrade that only these stations can provide.

How to identify a bio-plastic?

They are marked in their symbol of recycling with # 7 as the plastic identification code.


It is important to note that all our waste can be used in one way or another if it is disposed of cleanly and properly, plastic especially, as we have said, can be recycled to generate raw material for new plastic products with similar lifetimes and even greater than those they had initially if products such as garden furniture, traffic signs, benches or even ropes are manufactured.

So, are you willing to value your plastic waste in favor of the environment? Read our section on recycling and change your habits in favor of the planet!

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