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Biodegradable Plastic: A Good Idea for the Environment

Oct 14th 2013 at 9:11 AM

Plastic is cheap and easy to mass produce – no wonder that it’s heavily used in factories all around the world. The one pitfall to plastic? Different kinds of plastic can degrade at different times. For example, the average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is at least 450 years. That’s a long, long time.

This is where biodegradable plastics come in. Biodegradable plastics are plastics that can be broken down by microorganisms in water, carbon dioxide (CO2) and some bio-material. The need for alternative plastics is crucial to eliminating the world's waste pollution, and biodegradable plastics offer some advantages that can relieve our environmental problems.

First of all, under the right circumstances, it takes less time for biodegradable plastics to break down. Consequently, this decreases the amount of garbage that piles up in landfills. Recycling has been seen as a solution for regular plastics – and it has played a role in reducing pollution – but the truth is: recycling can be costly, and the process has to be adapted to each type of plastic; not to mention that some plastics are almost impossible to reuse. Although a good idea, recycling can only do so much.

Besides environmental health, biomass materials in biodegradable plastics are not harmful to humans. Other types of plastics sometimes contain chemicals and toxins known to have negative effects on our health. With biodegradable plastic, there is no such worry. This plastic harmlessly breaks down and gets absorbed into the earth.

Biodegradable plastics have a variety of applications, from agriculture and food packaging to biomedical devices and tableware. But despite all the advantages of using such plastics, there are still a few obstacles to overcome. High costs and the need of a proper waste management infrastructure are the main ones. With constant research in the field and huge interest from environmentally friendly companies everywhere, hopefully the use of biodegradable plastics will soon become a habit. This way, we can reduce the environmental impact caused by the improper disposal of plastic materials.

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