Sat, Dec 10 2011 at 7:46 PM
As usual nothing in life is that simple. Biodegradable does not mean compostable. Many materials will biodegrade in a compost facility but many will not. This should be well understood. Compostable material will NOT biodegrade in a landfill. It persits there like a conventional plastic. In a compost facility, when matter biodegrades it is converted to CO2. Any energy that was contained in the matter is therefore lost. In a landfill, when matter biodegrades, it produces methane. This allows us to harness the energy out of the methane as we combust it and convert it to CO2. A problem here is we can't capture all the methane. So some escapes to the atm to do more damage than the CO2. However methane is a very clean fuel and when it is burned for energy it is replacing other energy sources, perhaps coal which releases a lot of C02 to the atm, so the net effect on the atm has to look at both factors. On just the environmental side, when a plastic item is disposed it will last many 100's of years. Is that the legacy we want to leave to the future generations? We should not be leaving our problems for them. So from that point of view, we should do all we can to eliminate plastic waste. So reduce, then reuse then recycle, but then rejuvenate. This is a phrase we coined earlier. The rejuvenate is to make products biodegradable so that after reduce, reuse and recycle have been exhausted, then discard to a landfill or compost facility (if there is one around) and let the product biodegrade away. Hence considering these arguments, making items having the ability to biodegrade is preferable. Call it a backstop feature. Build it into plastic products at the time of manufacture. Try to do the reduce, reuse and recycle first, then if those don't work let the product biodegrade away and return to the earth. A complication on this is there compostable plastics are not recyclable, nor are oxo degradable plastics. Many of these manufacturers will lead you to think they are but they are producing non recyclable products. They have to go to compost piles or landfills. Compostable plastic will not biodegrade in a landfill. Oxodegradable plastics will not biodegrade at all. See www.plasticwastesolutions.com for more on this.
Mon, Nov 14 2011 at 11:15 PM
You missed the point above about what the FTC are saying. For a product to be claimed to be biodegradable, you have to say where it is biodegradable. If you don't it becomes really confusing and is considered green washing. In the above Plastarch was quoted as being biodegradable. But it is only biodegradable in a compost facility. Buy you have to note, there are very few compost facilities around, those that do mostly do not take compostable plastic, consumer do not know if an item is compostable or not, how could they by looking at plastic spoon for example? If they did how would they get that plastic item to a compost facility? They can't, so it will go into the trash and then to a land fill. In a landfill, compostable plastics DO NOT biodegrade. All most all bioplastics have this problem. Though you have to read the manufacturers fine print to see it. What you need to be discussing is plastics that WILL biodegrade in a landfill as that is where over 80% of plastics end up. For the most part, the only plastics that can do that are plastics that are made with a landfill-biodegradable additive. Do a Google search on Ecopure or Eco-One or EarthNuture to find out how these products work. Then you can talk about the science being developed to eliminate plastic waste. It is not coming from Bioplastics