Have you ever heard of bioplastics? I was reading an article about them recently, and they sound really interesting. Traditional plastics are made from petroleum, and as we are continually trying to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels such as oil and gas, bioplastics have come to be seen as the future for plastic products. What’s more, when plastic is made it generates large amounts of CO2 (that’s carbon dioxide – one of the principal greenhouse gases that we all need to worry about) and toxic by-products, and plastics that find their way onto farmland and into the sea can choke or poison animals and sea-life.
Some traditional plastics may be bio-degradable (they break down in the soil over time), but many are not and can take thousands of years to even begin to decompose. It makes me wonder what future archaeologists will think about us in a few thousand years’ time when they dig down to the 21st century layer of the earth and discover the remains of cities littered with plastic goods all still intact after all that time!
What goes into bioplastic?
Bioplastics are made from organic substances (called biomass) such as vegetable oil, starch, cellulose, alcohol and acids. There are current projects ongoing to develop bioplastics from the waste products of food production, and even food waste itself which is currently either sent to landfill (where it produces methane, another dangerous greenhouse gas) or sent to a ‘digester’ (sounds horrible doesn’t it?) which breaks it down and in some cases uses the energy it produces for other purposes.
One of the best things about bioplastics is that when they are produced, they generate much less CO2 and toxic matter than the production methods for petroleum based plastics. In addition, the materials that they are made from can be literally grown in our fields, and when the plastics break down, they again produce less CO2 than conventional plastics.
Bioplastics can be made to be totally bio-degradable within a very short space of time (as little as 180 days is quoted), or made to last longer to suit their intended use, and then break down. Supermarket plastic bags and single-use carrier bags need a short life cycle for example, and electronic insulation and casing materials, a longer life cycle before they begin to break down and bio-degrade. Bioplastic can even be totally non-bio-degradable if required, so if you want to make fencing materials or other outdoor goods from plastic and you want them to last, bioplastic is again a good choice of materials.
Look to the future
In the future, when you are disposing of your rubbish from your home or your business, you will probably be secure in the knowledge that the plastic waste you produce won’t have caused major pollution during manufacture, and won’t be hanging around for thousands of years. In the meantime, if you have waste materials for disposal, help to ensure they end up where they should by getting them removed and recycled by a member of the Gumamah team of waste removal and disposal experts.