Editor’s Note: Plastics are indispensable in many areas of our modern lives, yet questions over the material’s sustainability are rarely out of the headlines these days. Are biodegradable, compostable and bioplastics really a better environmental solution? Richard McKinlay, head of circular cconomy at United Kingdom-based resource recovery research and consulting firm Axion, offers his opinion.
Plastic materials that at end of life can completely break down naturally and disappear harmlessly may sound like the ideal answer. People hear terms such as “biodegradable, bioplastic” and “compostable,” and assume these plastics are more “environmentally-friendly.” However, the reality is not so simple.
The main issue here is a lack of understanding of the nature of compostable or biodegradable plastics and what bioplastics are, including their specific applications and the specialist treatment process needed to deal with these materials.
Bioplastics are made using renewable feedstocks rather than being derived directly from oil.