Choosing Between Biodegradable or Compostable Plastics
When you buy plastic bags or liners, are they labeled Biodegradable or Compostable? Do you know what the difference is between them? Here is a short explanation that might help you decide want is best for you, your family, and the environment.
Nearly every piece of plastic will biodegrade and disintegrate given enough time. Some plastics take days, others take years, and for the plastic manufacturers who are not making eco-friendly alternatives, the breakdown will take centuries. Although compostable and biodegradable are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing.
The Science Behind the Plastics
Biodegradable Plastics can break down without oxygen, and will turn into dirt and biomass within a reasonable amount of time. The anaerobic no oxygen environment is what we call a landfill. The Landfill environments are most common in the United States, and can be found in every populated human area. However, the biodegradable plastic takes longer to break down. Depending on the soil conditions, it may take 3 to 5 years before it starts to break apart and turn into dirt.
Compostable Plastics are bio-based plastics that originate from plant material such as sugar cane, corn starch, and wheat. These plastics require oxygen, water, heat, and humidity to break down, and must be processed in a municipal or industrial composting facility where it can be managed and controlled to achieve the high temperatures that are necessary for biodegradation to occur, typically at least 90% within 180 days. Compostable plastics also require ASTMD6400 certification to be marketed as compostable. However, municipal or industrial composting facility are very limited to only a few states in the United States, and if not sent to these facilities, these bioplastics may never break down. Compostable Plastic released gases also contribute to global warming by releasing greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide (CO2 ), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
Plascon Group manufactures biodegradable gusseted liners, flat poly bags, and tubing. Clear or colored films are available, and one-color printing can also be added to your product for brand messaging. Our biodegradable liners are made from LLDPE resins, are FDA approved for food grade use, and have the biodegradable certification ASTM D5511. Our bio liners will biodegrade in both an aerobic and anaerobic environments (with oxygen or without oxygen) making them ideally suitable for landfill environments that are most common in the United States. We believe biodegradable is the best option.