What are bioplastics?
A sustainable alternative to traditional plastics, bioplastics are plastics that are fully or partially biobased, and/or biodegradable or compostable. In other words, they are plastics that are made from renewable resources (plants like corn, tapioca, potatoes, sugar and algae), and they will break down faster than traditional plastics, which are typically made from petroleum, and other fossil resources such as natural gas.
Bioplastics support the earth by offering a reduced carbon footprint, a reduced use of fossil resources, and improved end-of-life options. Bioplastic is a non-toxic alternative to traditional plastic.
The Carbon Cycle
When a plant grows, it takes in carbon dioxide, and when it biodegrades, it releases the carbon dioxide back into the earth – it’s a closed loop cycle. When we extract fossil fuels from the earth, we disrupt the natural cycle, and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than natural processes can take it away. As a result, the atmosphere is getting overloaded with carbon dioxide. Additionally, fossil fuels take millions of years to form, and are therefore non-renewable resources. In other words, we are using our fossil resources faster than they can be replaced.
When we make products like plastics from fossil fuels, we are contributing to the imbalance in the environment while depleting valuable fossil resources, thereby increasing the carbon footprint of the product. Bioplastics can replace nearly 100% of the fossil fuel content found in conventional plastics, and require considerably less energy to produce.
Many bioplastics are 100% compostable and will biodegrade in 180 days or less when disposed of in a municipal composting facility, whereas traditional plastics can take decades to break down. Initially, when conventional plastics begin to break down, they fragment into smaller and smaller particles that often end up in our water stream, and in our food stream when animals eat the plastic particles. Conversely, compostable plastics are absorbed back into the earth and become nutrients for the soil – closing the loop.
Bioplastics have the same cycle time as traditional plastics but because the process requires significantly lower processing temperatures, bioplastic products can save up to 35% energy. In addition, bioplastics have two thirds less harmful greenhouse gas emissions during the production process.