Top 10 Myths About Biodegradable Plastics Debunked

May 7, 2024

The rising interest in sustainable materials has led to a surge in the use of biodegradable plastics. However, with this increase comes a host of misconceptions. Here, we address and debunk the top 10 myths surrounding biodegradable plastics, providing accurate information to help you make informed decisions.

Myth 1: Biodegradable Plastics Decompose Anywhere

Biodegradable plastics require specific conditions to decompose effectively. Most need a combination of heat, moisture, and microbial activity, often found in industrial composting facilities, not in regular landfills or the natural environment.

Myth 2: Biodegradable Plastics Are the Same as Compostable Plastics

While both biodegradable and compostable plastics break down over time, compostable plastics are designed to break down into non-toxic components under composting conditions. Biodegradable plastics, on the other hand, may leave behind some residues or require specific environments to decompose.

Myth 3: Biodegradable Plastics Contribute to Microplastic Pollution

High-quality biodegradable plastics are designed to break down into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass without leaving microplastics. However, low-quality products or improper disposal can contribute to pollution, underscoring the importance of proper waste management.

Myth 4: Biodegradable Plastics Can Be Recycled with Traditional Plastics

Biodegradable plastics should not be mixed with traditional plastics in recycling streams. They require separate processing to avoid contamination and ensure proper breakdown, typically in composting facilities.

Myth 5: All Biodegradable Plastics Are Made from Plants

Biodegradable plastics can be made from a variety of materials, including both renewable plant-based resources and traditional petrochemical-based sources. The key is their ability to biodegrade under certain conditions, not their origin.

Myth 6: Biodegradable Plastics Will Solve the Plastic Pollution Crisis

While biodegradable plastics are a step in the right direction, they are not a silver bullet. Effective waste management, reduction in plastic use, and increased recycling are also crucial to addressing plastic pollution comprehensively.

Myth 7: Biodegradable Plastics Are Less Durable than Traditional Plastics

Advances in biodegradable plastic technology have produced materials that are just as durable and versatile as traditional plastics, suitable for a wide range of applications from packaging to durable goods.

Myth 8: Biodegradable Plastics Are Always More Expensive

While some biodegradable plastics may be more expensive due to production costs and economies of scale, the price is decreasing as technology advances and demand increases. Additionally, considering the environmental benefits, the cost can be justified.

Myth 9: Biodegradable Plastics Can Be Disposed of Carelessly

Biodegradable plastics still require proper disposal. Littering biodegradable plastics is harmful to the environment as they do not decompose effectively outside controlled environments, such as composting facilities.

Myth 10: All Products Labeled “Biodegradable” Meet the Same Standards

The term “biodegradable” can vary widely. It’s essential to look for certifications and standards that specify the conditions and timeframe within which the product will biodegrade. Labels like ASTM D6400 or EN 13432 indicate compliance with recognized standards.

Biodegradable plastics hold great promise for reducing plastic waste and pollution, but understanding their properties and limitations is crucial. Dispelling these myths helps consumers make more informed choices and contributes to a more sustainable future. As technology advances, the role of biodegradable plastics will continue to evolve, offering more eco-friendly solutions for everyday use.