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Biodegradable plastic may not actually be so biodegradable!

There are definitely times when you find out something that makes everything feel like a lie, for example when I found out that a Chai Latte was not coffee, or when I found out porn crackers were actually called prawn crackers or when I found out that vikings didn't actually have horns on their helmets.

I'll admit the Chai thing was ridiculous, and the prawn crackers thing was when I was very young, so maybe not the same thing. But regardless, this one will make you question what is real, biodegradable plastic may not actually be so biodegradable after all!

A study by Michigan State University found that these additives may actually be doing nothing at all.

But first lets get accustomed with the specifics of it, according to Gizmodo "There are bioplastics, usually made from renewable plant materials, and there is ordinary plastic made from petrochemicals with chemicals added to speed up degradation—supposedly, anyway. The current study looks at the latter category."

Biodegradation of plastics is when the materials that make up the plastic are assimilated back into the earth. Biodegration promoting additives are used constantly around the world, in the thought that they will enable this process of assimilation. However, there is much uncertainty about the actual effectiveness of these additives, and this study proves that it may not help at all.

The team at Michigan State University tested three additives in two common types of plastic, low-density polyethylene (plastic bags) and PET sheets (plastic containers). They put the plastics through a series of tests that replicate landfill conditions. The plastics underwent anaerobic, or oxygen-less conditions, similar to being buried in a landfill. Then they mixed it with compost. Then they buried it under soil for three years.

The plastics that contained biodegradable additives ended up exactly the same as those without. The authors of the study then concluded, "Thus, no evidence was found that these additives promote and/or enhance biodegradation of PE or PET polymers"

In saying this, this study is possibly limited and is just one study in a large field. But it does definitely prove an uncertainty in biodegradable plastic and what consumers think it does and what it really does.

This is not meant to be too negative, when things like this happen it may feel like a setback, but it opens up space for more research and more tests to try find something better and sustainable. And there are inventions and initiatives showing themselves every day from passionate people who really want to see change.

What you can do

Say 'NO' to wasteful packaging, plastic bags and bottled water

Reject or cut back on these bad-for-the-environment items: over-packaged products, non-recyclable packaging, plastic bags and bottled water when tap water is available.

1,835 Tonnes of CO2
savings pledged
Pledge to do this

Shea Hogarth International Correspondent Suggest an article Send us an email

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