Biodegradable Plastics: How They Work & Their Advantages
Plastics are a vital asset that often provides functionality other materials can’t easily or economically replace. While synthetic plastics are usually cheaper, lighter, safer, and stronger, they don’t mix well with nature.
Biodegradable plastics are a way to keep the enormous advantages of conventional plastics while mitigating their disadvantages. As a leading turnkey plastic extrusion and finishing service provider, Preferred Plastics wants to help you better understand these environmentally friendly materials and whether they’re ideal for your product.
What are biodegradable plastics?
Biodegradable plastics, which are sometimes called bioplastics, are made from natural plant-based raw materials and capable of decomposition. This is achieved through composting or when the bacteria and fungi present in the surrounding environment naturally metabolize the plastics.
Developed to address the synthetic plastic waste problem, bioplastics break down after a certain amount of time. Exactly how long hinges upon myriad factors, such as temperature and the amount of moisture present, but a general rule of thumb is three to six months. That’s much quicker than their synthetic counterparts, which can take several hundred years to decompose.
How are they made?
Plastics are a group of materials that are shaped when soft and then hardened to retain the given shape. Many plastic products are manufactured partly or wholly from synthetic polymers – polyethylene, polystyrene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, and polytetrafluoroethylene, for example – and can last hundreds of years.
Bioplastics, however, are manufactured using polymers derived from natural sources such as sugar cane, potato starch, or the cellulose from trees, straw, and cotton. Some bioplastics degrade in the open air. Others decompose in an industrial composting plant, aided by fungi, bacteria, and enzymes.
Traditional plastics are durable, lightweight materials that help to extend the shelf life of fresh foods and beverages enabling shipment of products safely and quickly. They comprise the components that make buildings and vehicles more energy efficient.
While conventional plastics touch just about every aspect of society, they have a range of disadvantages. Examples include:
- Increased litter
- Threaten natural environments
- Attract other pollutants
- Spoil groundwater
- Impact on human health
- Collect in landfills
Biodegradable plastics, however, offer a range of benefits. Common ones include:
- Lower carbon footprint
- Made from natural materials
- Avoids the use of the monomers and additives that may negatively impact human and animal health
- Saves non-renewable energy sources
Uses for Biodegradable Plastics
Plastics are regarded with deep ambivalence in the much of the world, and some governments have moved to restrict single-use synthetic plastics. Consumers may associate products or companies that use synthetic plastic with unsightly litter and spend their money elsewhere.
A variety of business sectors can benefit from biodegradable plastics. Examples include:
Embracing biodegradable plastics shows that a company is environmentally conscious, which may attract customers with similar values. One example is the use of biodegradable packaging for fresh food, dried snacks, candy, and baked goods.
Custom Plastic Extrusions
An industry-leading custom plastics extruder, we know how to produce high-quality parts that meet exacting requirements on time and within budget. Our team can manufacture products that have the look, feel, and functionality of conventional plastics with a reduced environmental impact.
Give us a call to learn more about biodegradable plastics.