Compost Round Up: “Bioplastics in our Biosphere”

For those of us emptying buckets, picking up bags from commercial accounts, checking inside buckets, ‘compostable’ cutlery or ‘bioplastics’ is a familiar sight. What are bioplastics exactly? How are they manufactured and are they really compostable? Is it clever marketing or an effective strategy for greener production and dining?

Bioplastics, simply stated, are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn or pea starch and microbiota. They come in forms like packaging, pots, bowls, cutlery, bags, and even in mobile phone casings, plastic piping and carpet fibers. The term ‘bioplastic” means plastic that has been created from a biological source. This can be misleading as folks can assume that “bioplastic” equals “biodegradable,” which in many cases is incorrect.

In comparison with the production of common plastic, bioplastic requires less fossil fuels and creates less greenhouse gas. Petroleum is used in the production of both, however, its possible to create bioplastic with renewable energy and zero petroleum. Consequently, there is concern that if the demand for bioplastic spikes to a global level, this will lead to increased deforestation and soil eroison.

And so you see, there is much debate regarding bioplastics especially since there are different types (starch-based, cellulose-based, polylactic acid, poly-3-hydroxybutyrate, polyamide 11, etc) each with it’s own environmental pro’s and con’s.

This is a very basic illustration mapping the cycle of bioplastics:

bioplastics

In terms of the breakdown of bioplastics, which is where Bootstrap comes in, see this article for details: http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/12/breaking-bioplastics. “Not all bio-based plastics will biodegrade and not all biodegradable plastics will compost,” the author states.

It seems we have a way to go until the production and breakdown of bioplastics is perfected. In the meantime, we can be active, educated consumers, ensuring our dishware goes to the correct stream for the correct processing. Fortunately, Bootstrap sorts and removes any non-compostable bioplastics from our stream. Those which are compostable are sent to our friends at partners at composting facilities. Booya!

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