What is bioplastic?
Bioplastics are similar to conventional plastics. However, unlike conventional plastic, bioplastic is different in that it is made from biodegradable materials.
What does biodegradability of bioplastic mean?
The term biodegrade simply means the ability of an object such as plastic in this case to be decomposed by living organisms such as bacteria. Plastics are made from petroleum- a non-renewable fossil fuel.
Conventional plastic is non-degradable. They simply live forever and only divide into smaller bits known as micro plastics that pollute the environment. Pollution not only affects human beings but also risks the extinction of animals as evidenced by the whale that died in Thailand after ingesting plastic bags.
At this point, you might be wondering why not just recycle plastics given their longevity. Well, it’s true that recycling is one of the strategies that can mitigate the plastic menace.
But did you know only 9% of the plastic produced annually is recycled?
According to the UN this plastic scourge necessitates environmentally friendly alternatives. This is where Bioplastics come into play. Bioplastics are made from renewable materials such as protein, oils and starches. Unlike conventional plastic, bioplastics are also biodegradable as they can be degraded through industrial or home composting. Being an environmentally friendly plastic is one of the key reasons bioplastics have gained immense popularity.
Why have bioplastics become popular?
- First, there are the changes in regulation. In many countries the negative effect of non-degradable plastic have led to a ban to the use of plastics.
This means the sale, manufacture or use of plastic bags could land you in trouble with the law in countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Denmark, UK and Italy among others.
- Bioplastics are made of renewable materials reducing the human over-reliance on depleting fossils.
This has been facilitated by an increased demand for environmentally friendly products.
- Using bioplastic material is cheaper for you as it is easy to recycle them.
- If you use bioplastics you will be reducing your carbon footprint.
That’s your primary goal, right?
Despite your best attempts at recycling plastic, most of it goes to waste more so for one-use items such as straws. Using them will hence help you to reduce your carbon footprint and protect the environment.
Uses of bioplastics
The industrial sector is the biggest consumer of plastics. To this end, the industrial sector has also been a large consumer of bioplastics especially for cosmetic and aggro-food packaging. Some of the industries that have benefited from the use of these are as follows:
- Food & Beverage industry
According to a PubMed study, plastics contribute one of the highest percentage of waste in the hospitality industry.
Can you guess how many disposable coffee cups are dumped in a day? Probably millions…
The use of bioplastics to create coffee cups, cutlery and crockery is reducing the negative impact of plastic on the pollution emanating from the hospitality sector.
Traditionally, primary and secondary packaging has been made using plastic. The impact of this form of packaging is best explained in the film plastic nation.
In the film, it is established that plastics have polluted the oceans threatening the ocean life. A compelling example of this negative effect is the whale that died of starvation after consuming seventeen pounds of plastic.
Bioplastics have provided the solution to this environmental menace by creating biodegradable primary and secondary packaging bags.
- Electronic waste
The usage of electronic devices is on the rise. But have you ever wondered where your old laptop goes?
According to the WHO e-waste ends up in developing nations endangering the lives of locals through toxic chemicals from non-degradable materials such as conventional plastic. Bioplastics are being used to create electronic casings and parts reducing the harmful effect of conventional plastic.
You can also use bioplastics to create several items at home. These include:
- Flower wrapping
- Biodegradable plastic cutlery…and have environmentally-friendly summer picnics.
- Drinking straws
- Arguably, the industrial sector is the largest consumer these.
But do you know you can make your own bioplastic material at home?
All you need are a few renewable materials such as cornstarch and plant based oils including corn oil or vegetable oil among other easily accessible environments. Making your own is thus a cheap and easy method of protecting the environment and reducing your carbon footprint. See this video below for ideas.