Big words and their meaning
Natural cosmetic and what this means isn’t the only word that is being used and stretched in many ways. The same goes for biodegradeable, bio-plastic, home-compastabe and little does the consumer know or even the people in the industry what this actually means and what happens to a product that is labelled with one of these terms. Our biggest issue is the use of bio-plastic that very much acts like traditional plastic even though it is based on plants, and actually confuses the consumer into the believe that it can be disposed off by throwing it into the traditional plastic bin. However, in doing so, the recycling system is being polluted. A few definitions that we found during our research can we found below. Please note that these are not our definitions and can be found on the UK governments website.
There is often conflation between the terms ‘bio-based’, ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ so this call for evidence proceeds with the following definitions:
Bio-based plastics are made using polymers derived from plant-based sources such as starch, cellulose, or lignin. Bio-based plastics can be engineered to be biodegradable, equally they can be made to function exactly like conventional fossil based plastic (i.e. to have the same durability).
Biodegradable plastics can be broken down into water, biomass, and gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane. Biodegradability depends on environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, microorganisms present, and oxygen.
Compostable materials are a sub-set of biodegradable plastics that break down safely into water, biomass and gasses under composting conditions. Industrial composting conditions are the most optimal: temperatures of 55-70oC, high humidity and oxygen. Materials that break down in industrial composters may not break down under home composting conditions.
Bio-based and biodegradable plastics have a wide range of diverse applications. Bio-based plastics can be engineered to function exactly like fossil-based plastics, the only difference being that they are derived from non-fossilised biological organisms such as plants rather than petrochemicals.
Biodegradable plastics on the other hand behave differently to conventional plastics, and can be either fossil-based or bio-based. A biodegradable plastic is intended to break down in a particular environment in a safe and timely manner. This could prove useful in specific circumstances where it is hard to recover the material for recycling, or when that material could otherwise enter the recycling stream but cannot be recycled due to contamination. This would therefore prevent a fossil-based plastic being landfilled, incinerated, or littered – where it will persist for an extended period of time. There are also materials that are designed from the outset to biodegrade in horticultural/soil environment (e.g. tree guards, mulch films) and marine environments (e.g. nets and lines).
We are not perfect. We keep focusing on our goal and think how we can commit back to nature. We want to keep our footprint to a minimal and give back to nature. So if you are on a similar journey, if you have ideas and thoughts what we can do differently, please let us know. If we can help each other we can make a bigger impact to our environment.
If you have any questions or thoughts, please reach out to us on email@example.com .
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, (2019), “STANDARDS FOR BIO-BASED, BIODEGRADABLE, AND COMPOSTABLE PLASTICS”, Date: 14 October 2019. Available online: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/819343/standards-biobased-biodegradable-compostable-plastics-cfe.pdf