How can biodegradable plastic solve the plastic pollution problem?

In December, nearly 200 countries including the U.S., China, and India signed a United Nations resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in the sea. The main challenge, however, in ending plastic pollution is that it stems from fossil fuels, which the developing nations are reluctant to toss. Similarly, anti-plastic campaigns are making a little difference. Efforts to ban plastic bags and straws can raise awareness but they aren’t contributing to the bulk of the problem. Plastic pollution is a human problem, which can’t be solved unless we get to its root.

Kevin O’Connor of University College Dublin, Ireland says bioplastics are, at least, a part of the plastic pollution solution.

Biodegradable plastic, also known as polylactic acid, or PLA, is made from maize starch or sugar cane. It has uses ranging from medical implants to packaging. At the University College Dublin, O’Connor is working on fermenting sugars or plant oils, or even breaking down waste PET to make polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), a biodegradable plastic that can be used to make bottles, films, and glues.

The most effective biodegradable plastic is probably Mater-Bi, a thermoplastic starch “made of cornstarch, vegetable oil derivatives, and biodegradable synthetic polyesters.” Out of a varied biodegradable plastics, Mater-Bi is the only one which is found to be compostable at typical home compost pile conditions. Most plastic that contains ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ carry incomplete or misleading labeling.

biodegradable plastic

Kevin O’Connor of University College Dublin, Ireland says bioplastics are, at least, a part of the plastic pollution solution.

So why are we not hearing more about the potential for biodegradable plastics? The idea of bioplastics has been since the 1920s and some have been commercially available since the 70s. It is, however, difficult to made bioplastics from plant-based materials such as starch since it cost more than to produce oil-based plastics in a market driven by high-volume commodity produced using cheaper methods.

Niche markets exist for bioplastics from food and healthcare manufacturers keen to gain some clean energy bonus points. Companies such as LEGO and IKEA are searching for new bio-based raw material. By 2020, IKEA wants to manufacture all of its plastic products from renewable materials. It is already considering using a fungus biodegradable packaging instead of polystyrene to package its products. The biodegradable packaging is produced by growing mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus) around cork stalks or husk and then dried. LEGO aims to produce its building bricks from plastic made of renewable materials starting 2030. In 2015, the company announced it was investing €135 million to found its own Sustainable Materials Center. The Coca-Cola Company wants to produce its PlantBottle technology using only renewable resources.

Biodegradable plastic should be a good news for the global plastic waste problem. The pristine beaches that were once covered with sand are now littered with plastic waste. Every year an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic waste gets washed up from nearby nations into the oceans. The marine pollution has reached at a level where it is approaching as a serious environmental issue.

Anna Domanska
Anna Domanska is an Industry Leaders Magazine author possessing wide-range of knowledge for Business News. She is an avid reader and writer of Business and CEO Magazines and a rigorous follower of Business Leaders.

Recent Posts

Flagship Pioneering, investor in Moderna raises $3.4 billion funds

Flagship Pioneering, investor in Moderna raises $3.4 billion funds

Flagship Pioneering, the bioplatform company, and the venture capital investor in Moderna, today announced that it had raised additional funding of $2.23 billion, which brings its
21 hours ago
United to recall furloughed employees as travel recovers

United to recall furloughed employees as travel recovers

The fading of the pandemic and the rollout of vaccines has brought in some good cheer for the floundering air travel industry. More countries have opened up for business and are al
2 days ago
UK’s Sanne agrees to consider Cinven bid

UK’s Sanne agrees to consider Cinven bid

Sanne, a UK fund administration business that provides alternative asset and corporate services, has agreed to hold talks with private equity firm Cinven over a potential £1.4bn t
2 days ago
Global stocks rise as investors ignore inflations indicators

Global stocks rise as investors ignore inflations indicators

Global stocks rose to an all-time high, with investor showing confidence in a strong economic recovery from coronavirus and the vaccine effect, but the market is still a bit cautio
2 days ago
UK watchdog whacks Amazon with probe for unfair data collection practices

UK watchdog whacks Amazon with probe for unfair data collection practices

The Competition and Markets Authority will focus on whether Amazon, Inc. favors merchants that use its delivery services.
5 days ago
Altice buys 12 percent stake in BT worth £2 billion

Altice buys 12 percent stake in BT worth £2 billion

Altice said it did not intend to make a bid for the British Telecoms company, though the takeover code also does not allow it to make an unsolicited buyout offer for six months wit
5 days ago