Biodegradable Plastic designed by BioSphere Plastic are designed to break down in natural environments either aerobic or anaerobically. Anaerobic environments for biodegradable plastic are placed into landfill conditions or in composting conditions that are very wet. Aerobic environments are environments with free oxygen and low amounts of water content to allow microorganisms to utilize the oxygen around them. Many compostable plastic companies have their products thrown into landfills due to the under developed amount of commercially compostable facilities. It is for this reason the majority of biodegradable plastics are thrown into landfill environments worldwide
The benefits of biodegradable plastic being utilized at facilities that capture methane is the ability to convert the methane gas to energy. This allows for plastic bags and other items to be fully utilized for their power potential. Placing biodegradable products into compost facilities have many set backs including the changes that are required for complete biodegradation of the products. Many products require 180-200 days for complete breakdown of the material when the composter has their facility maintained at 140F+, with little to no water mixed with 2/3rds food waste as to not change the compost due to the lactic acid content of many biobased or compostable materials.
The changes of the physical characteristics of the plastic products when utilizing biobased materials such as PLA and others changes the dynamic of the final product. Most products require an increased amount of resin when utilizing the biobased resins such as PLA. PLA is a corn based plastic which is manufactured taking the polysachrides or sugars from corn, the corn is grown with cheap fertalizers which create nitrious oxide which is 310 times more potent than Co2 or 15 times more potent than methane gas. PLA resin is listed as synthetic by the USDA and is not organic according to the USDA.
Confusion in the biodegradable plastic marketplace is between compostable, oxodegradable and biodegradable plastic additives. These technologies work differently when interacting with microorganisms. Oxo-degradable additives work on a chemical reaction which reacts with the polymer such as Low Density Polyethylene, when the UV promoter or Oxo-degradable additive is subjected to UV it begins to change the polymer to be reduced to 500 daltons, once the polymer is reduced to 500 Daltons the plastic particles have a better ability for microorganisms to begin to consume the plastic product. These Oxo-degradable additives are introduced with a UV inhibitor leveling out their subjection to UV light. These UV inhibitors are added in to the plastic product with the oxo-degradable additives which lengthen the period of time it takes to degrade in the ambient environments. This makes the product less susceptible to UV light increasing the life of the oxo-degradable product. One issue with this concept is that when UV inhibitors are introduced into the plastic product with the oxo-degradable product it loses the relevant nature of degradation to reduce the polymer chain to 500 daltons. In fact Uv Inhibitors when introduced with UV degraders(Oxo-degradables) will not degrade in the natural environment for 18 months. These products are manufactured with a period of time in mind, manufacturers want to provide confidence to their consumers that their bags or other items will not degrade before their intended uses. This has created a problem as Oxodegradable products without the UV inhibitors reduce tensile strength and become brittle in a short period of time and consumers find them useless without the UV Inhibitors.
Companies such as BioSphere Biodegradable Plastic Additives create additives which interact with microorganisms creating hydrolysis by enzymatic reactions. These reactions breakdown the polymer chains to simpler forms which are easily consumed by microorganisms. This in turn makes biodegradable plastic.