5 Bioplastic myths busted
BioPak aims to distribute environmentally sustainable packaging – such as bioplastics and certified commercially compostable packaging
Bioplastics, PLA-lined coffee cups and compostable packaging are in the spotlight for more eco-friendly plastic alternatives. While it is great that they are getting coverage in mainstream media, there have been instances of inaccurate reporting that can confuse consumers and downplay the role these materials can have in reducing plastic pollution.
BioPak founder and sustainability director Richard Fine has set out to debunk five of these myths and misconceptions about bioplastics.
Myth 1: Bioplastic is just a biodegradable plastic
Wrong. A bioplastic is a substance made from an organic biomass source. Unlike conventional plastics – which are made from finite fossil resources such as gas and oil – bioplastics are made from renewable resources such as plant oils, cellulose, starches, sugars, carbohydrates, bacteria, and algae.
Producing bioplastics almost always emits less CO2 than producing conventional plastics.
Not all bioplastics are biodegradable. The bioplastic BioPak uses is certified compostable. This means it will completely biodegrade in a compost environment within a defined timeframe and leave behind no toxic residues.
Myth 2: Conventional plastic products with the ‘biodegradable’ additive are compostable
Plastics with a ‘degradable’ additive are not compostable. Marketing campaigns tell us that plastic products labelled as ‘degradable’, ‘biodegradable’, or even ‘landfill degradable’ are better for the environment. This is misleading and a form of greenwashing.
Unlike ‘certified compostable’ products, there are no restrictions to using the term ‘biodegradable’ in marketing a product. In addition to a lack of scientific evidence that a product will completely biodegrade, the main problem with these claims is that there is often no defined timeframe for decomposition, and any remaining fragments that do not completely biodegrade could be ingested by microorganisms and climb their way up the food chain.
Biodegradable additives do not address the problem of using fossil fuels for single-use packaging and are certainly not a solution for littering. All they do is offer consumers and brand owners a false sense of environmental responsibility.
These claims also create issues for composting infrastructure. Ultimately, they are still made of plastic and cannot produce toxin-free compost. Misinformed consumers attempting to do the right thing inadvertently contaminate compost waste streams with conventional plastic.
Myth 3: Bioplastics can contaminate organic waste for commercial composting
Bioplastics do not decrease the quality of the compost created, and bioplastics that are certified commercially compostable do not contaminate compost waste streams. All BioPak compostable packaging has been certified to EN13432 or AS4736. These products are independently and completely tested (inks, glues etc.) and approved for acceptance in suitable commercial compost facilities. Certification gives the composters the confidence that the organic waste they’re accepting will not contaminate their process.
The BioPak Compost service is proof that organic recycling of foodservice packaging is scalable, practical and commercially viable. Together with our customers and partners, we’re proving the model in order to empower councils, and waste management industries to step up.
Myth 4: Reusables are the only eco-friendly solution to solving the world’s plastic pollution
While we wholeheartedly support reusables as a solution to single-use plastic consumption, we also recognise it’s not always convenient or practical to always have your own reusables. It’s in these situations that compostable single-use food service disposables are the best solution – providing a safe, hygienic and cost-effective way to serve food and beverages to large numbers of people
Myth 5: There’s no point creating compostable packaging when commercial composting infrastructure isn’t yet available
Ah, the classic ‘chicken and egg’ adage. Thing is, waste management industries are the end of the line in our linear consumption economy. Innovation happens at the beginning of the product life-cycle and flows down the line to the waste management industries.
When PET bottles were first introduced they were not recycled and the same can be said for aluminium and metal cans. Only when sufficient demand for a raw material exists does recycling make commercial sense.
And sometimes? We have to lead by example. That’s why we’ve launched the BioPak Compost Service – working with commercial composting facilities in Australia and New Zealand to make commercial composting infrastructure for organics and compostable packaging more readily available. Together with our partners, we are proving the composting infrastructure model as a case study for local councils and waste collection contractors to adopt and make part of the journey towards zero waste.
Post by Tallis Baker.
Planet Friendly Packaging acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we work.