Biodegradable

Author
Alex Bingham
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What is meant by biodegradable?

Biodegradable refers to any material or substance that can be broken down into its basic components by living organisms, such as bacteria and fungi. This process is known as biodegradation, and it can be used to reduce the environmental impact of materials that would otherwise take a long time to degrade naturally.

What is a biodegradable example?

Examples of biodegradable materials include paper, cornstarch cardboard, food scraps, wood, and natural fibres. An increasingly common biodegradable product is a takeaway coffee cup or container. 

How does biodegradable plastic break down?

Biodegradable plastics are made from organic materials such as cornstarch, vegetable oils, and tree resins. Biodegradable plastic breaks down through a process called photodegradation, which occurs when the material is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. The UV light breaks the molecular bonds that hold the plastic together, and the plastic is then broken down into smaller, biodegradable pieces. These smaller pieces can then be further broken down by bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. 

How long does biodegradability last?

Biodegradability depends on the material, its environment, and the types of microbes present. Generally, biodegradability can take anywhere from weeks to years to complete.

What are the benefits of biodegradable plastic?

Reduced Environmental Impact: Biodegradable plastics break down naturally and do not require additional energy or resources. This minimises the amount of waste in landfills and oceans, reducing the environmental impact of plastic production and consumption. 

Reduced Chemical Pollution: Biodegradable plastics do not contain the same harmful chemicals as traditional plastics. This reduces the risk of chemical pollution in the environment.

Safer for wildlife: Biodegradable plastic breaks down much faster than traditional plastic, reducing the risk of ingestion and entanglement for wildlife. 

Sustainable: Biodegradable plastics are more sustainable than traditional plastics because they are made from renewable resources, require less energy to produce, and can be composted or recycled.

Is biodegradable better than plastic?

Yes, as previously mentioned biodegradable materials are better for the environment than plastic. Biodegradable materials are made from natural, renewable resources and can be broken down by bacteria and other organisms into harmless substances. This makes them a more sustainable option than plastic, which is made from non-renewable fossil fuels and can take centuries to degrade.

Is biodegradable plastic more expensive than traditional plastic?

Biodegradable plastic is typically more expensive than traditional plastic, but prices vary greatly depending on the type of plastic and its purpose. Biodegradable plastic is generally more costly than conventional plastic due to the additional materials and processes involved in production.

Is biodegradable better than recycling?

No, biodegradable and recycling are different processes, so they should not compete. Biodegradable means that natural processes can break down the material into simpler components. Recycling is taking something that has been used and turning it into something else. Both approaches reduce waste and conserve resources.

Is biodegradable the same as sustainable?

No, biodegradable and sustainable are not the same. Biodegradable means something broken down by natural processes such as bacteria or fungi. Sustainable means something that can be maintained for a long period of time without compromising its quality or usefulness. Although biodegradable’s goal is to create a sustainable world, the products themselves are not sustainable. To a certain extent, they have opposite outcomes while having the same goal to improve the environment. 

What types of biodegradable plastics are available? 

Biodegradable plastics are made from renewable resources such as corn, potato, sugarcane, and even some types of algae. The most common types of biodegradable plastics are polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), and polybutylene succinate (PBS). PLA, PHA and PBS are used to make cups, food containers, packaging and utensils. 

Are biodegradable plastics compostable?

Yes, many biodegradable plastics are compostable, meaning they can be placed in a compost bin and broken down by microorganisms. 

Summary

In conclusion, biodegradability is an essential solution to consider in our current society as it is a critical factor in reducing the impact of our waste on the environment. Biodegradable materials are becoming more widely available and are a great way to reduce the amount of waste we produce. Furthermore, using compostable materials can reduce the need for energy-intensive recycling processes, and even provide beneficial nutrients for our soil. This shift towards more eco-friendly materials is integral to our journey towards a more sustainable future.

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