by Greg Stevens
Rebecca Mayer recently wrote an article for the Bag It website that briefly summarizes some pluses and minuses of bioplastics.
The bioplastic industry is very new and very fast-growing. As a result it is hard for the media to keep up with all of the advances and developments, especially when so many of them are only really accessible to industry “insiders” — in the form of technically-worded press-releases and scientific articles. That is one of the reasons for green-plastics.net: it is critical to keep the general population up to date with this industry, so that people know about progress and innovation and are not confused by mis-information or the recycling of outdated fears or biases.
Unfortunately, I think the brief summary written by Rebecca Mayer was a little too brief, and missed a lot of the exciting developments in the field over the last two or three years.
For example, the issue of green plastics biodegradability has been an area of enormous complexity and development. The article quotes a Wikipedia article, saying,
“most bioplastics will only degrade in the tightly controlled conditions of industrial composting units. In compost piles or simply in the soil/water, most bioplastics will not degrade; starch-based bioplastics will, however.”
But the fact is, some bioplastics will biodegrade in landfills, while others will biodegrade in compost facilities, and still others are deliberately designed to not biodegrade at all (they are “green” because of what they are made from, not because they biodegrade). This website actually discussed this issue at length in the article Shades of Green.
Additionally, the article says, “Although utilizing cheaper and less toxic materials, the production process for bioplastics still requires petroleum.” This single-sentence, “throw-away” criticism ignores the fact that a large number of companies have been making great strides toward making their production processes — not just their products — more green: Ingeo tackles every side of “green”
So I really encourage anyone who reads Rebecca Mayer’s article to do a little more research, and really find out what is going on in the field. It is exciting and encouraging, and will only continue to get better.