Compostable Plastic and Biodegradable Waste: All You Need to Know in February 2024
Biodegradable plastics are plastics that decompose naturally, usually through the action of living organisms such as microbes. But what is Compostable Plastic? This process turns the plastic into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. Most biodegradable plastics are produced using renewable raw materials, like plant materials, petrochemicals, or microorganisms.
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Bioplastics are made from renewable sources, such as plant and animal proteins, and they are gaining market share as they are more sustainable. Microorganisms can convert plant sugars into lactic acid, which is used in the production of bioplastics. The result is transparent plastic. This material is used in many applications, including food packaging and containers.
However, they must be marketed with clear environmental benefits to be effective. Green Guides, which detail best practices for green product design and marketing, are helpful. These guides help manufacturers convey a clear environmental value proposition to consumers and ensure that bioplastics are disposed of properly.
Better end-of-life disposal of bioplastics improves their environmental value proposition, reduces greenhouse gases, and ensures the sustainable use of resources. Biodegradable bioplastics can be composted and degraded in the environment. These products can then be converted into valuable soil and plant fertilizers.
Zero-to-landfill commercial waste collections are a sustainable way to dispose of hotel waste. Below is a table of what you can and cannot include in that:
Generate Green Waste
|Any non-hazardous waste
Polylactic acid, also known as PLA, is a renewable bioplastic made from sugar starches. It is biodegradable and can degrade in 45 to 90 days in an industrial composting facility. This makes it a green alternative to plastic. However, this material has its drawbacks, including its environmental impact. It is not biodegradable in a typical environment, according to BioSphere Plastic, which makes it not an accurate biodegradable material.
However, it can degrade in unique environments. Biosphere Plastic says it can help plastic degrade faster. But it will still partially biodegrade in the landfill. It is essential to know the limitations of PLA before converting it to compostable plastics. It does not break down as quickly as conventional plastic, increasing the surrounding environment’s acidity.
While the production of PLA is a viable option for compostable plastics, there are concerns that large quantities will interfere with conventional composting processes. PLA will revert to lactic acid when composting, making the material more acidic and wet. Microbes will consume it, which means it will take up a lot of oxygen. However, NatureWorks disputes this claim and maintains that PLA does not negatively impact composting.
Oxo-degradable plastics break down into smaller pieces through an oxidative process. This makes the material easier for biodegradation. This type of plastic is becoming more popular as consumers move towards more eco-friendly products. However, this type of plastic is more challenging to recycle than traditional plastics.
Oxo-degradable plastics are usually made from conventional plastics and augmented with specific additives to encourage their breakdown. These additives break down the plastic into tiny fragments that remain in the environment. These microplastics are not fully degradable and often remain in the environment for years or even decades.
Oxo-degradable plastics are a good option if you want to make a difference in the environment. These plastics are made from petroleum-based polymers but are mixed with a substance called “bio-batch” that accelerates the degradation process. The additive breaks down the plastic’s long carbon-hydrogen bonds, reducing its molecular weight.
Oxo-degradable plastics also support biofilms, which consume plastic molecules and break them down into harmless powders.
Compostable plastics are becoming more popular, but they still need a lot of research to determine whether they suit home composting. Unlike biodegradable paper and cardboard, which degrade quickly, compostable plastics need up to six months to decompose completely. Moreover, the materials must not leave any toxic residues that could negatively affect the growth of plants in the compost.
In addition, composting at home cannot replicate the conditions of industrial composting facilities. For home composting of compostable plastics, it is best to buy a device that can break down plastics into smaller pieces. For this, a device like Lomi is an excellent option. This machine uses calibrated heat and moisture to break the plastics into fragments. This method can significantly reduce the number of plastics disposed of in homes.
Composting at home is a great way to reduce waste while returning carbon to the soil. However, this method is less effective than industrial composting because the temperatures needed for the bioplastics to break down are much higher than those in a home composting bin. Moreover, the compost produced in a home composting system is typically much smaller than an industrial composting system.
Industrial compostable plastics meet specific requirements:
- Hazardous substances such as heavy metals should not be present above the maximum allowed levels
- A minimum of 90% of plastic materials should disintegrate into less than 2 mm pieces in compost within 12 weeks
- Plastic materials should contain more than 50% organic materials.
- A minimum of 90% biodegradation of plastic materials within 180 days in compost
- There should be no toxic effect from the resulting compost on plants and earthworms
Compostable Plastic – Learn more about UK business waste statistics here
Compostable Plastic – Other useful links from our Commercial Waste Centre
Why You Should Rent a Commercial Dumpster
Commercial Waste Collection Hull
Commercial Waste Collection Keighley
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