Bioplastics encompasses a whole family of materials which are biobased, biodegradable, or both.
Derived from renewable biomass sources, such as plant based starch, sugarcane or cellulose, Bioplastics are already used in packaging, agriculture, gastronomy, consumer electronics and automotive industries.
Using compostable bioplastic products such as bags, fresh food packaging, or disposable tableware and cutlery increases the end-of-life options. In addition to recovering energy and mechanical recycling, industrial composting (organic recovery / organic recycling) becomes an available end-of-life option.
Compostability is a clear benefit when plastic items are mixed with biowaste. Under these conditions, mechanical recycling is not feasible, neither for plastics nor biowaste. The use of compostable plastics makes the mixed waste suitable for organic recycling (industrial composting and anaerobic digestion), enabling the shift from recovery to recycling. This way, biowaste is diverted from other recycling streams or from landfill and facilitating separate collection – resulting in the creation of more valuable compost.
Biodegradation is a chemical process in which materials are metabolised to CO2, water, and biomass with the help of microorganisms. The process of biodegradation depends on the conditions (e.g. location, temperature, humidity, presence of microorganisms, etc.) of the specific environment (industrial composting plant, garden compost, soil, water, etc.) and on the material or application itself. Consequently, the process and its outcome can vary considerably.
While traditional Plastics products may take up to thousand years to degrade, DizzolveZero bags biodegrade within 3-6 months depending on where it is being disposed.
A product should always be designed with an efficient and appropriate recovery solution in mind. In the case of biodegradable compostable plastic products, the preferable recovery solution is the separate collection together with the biowaste, organic recycling (e.g. composting in industrial composting plant or anaerobic digestion in AD plants), and hence the production of valuable compost or biogas. Littering refers to careless discarding of waste and is not a legitimate means of disposal.
Biodegradable compostable plastics are often regarded as a possible solution to this problem as they can be decomposed by microorganisms without producing harmful or noxious residue during decomposition. However, the process of biodegradation is dependent on certain environmental conditions (i.e. temperature, presence of microorganisms, timeframe, etc.). Products suitable for industrial composting are fit for the conditions in a composting plant, but not necessary for those outside in nature.
Littering should never be promoted for any kind of material or waste. It is imperative for the consumer to continue to be conscious of the fact that no matter what type of packaging or waste, it must be subject to appropriate disposal and recovery processes.
Bioplastics differ from conventional plastics in that they are biodegradable, biobased or both.
Biodegradable refers to a natural process during which micro-organisms that are available in the environment convert materials into natural substances such as water, carbon dioxide and biomass (artificial additives are not needed!). The process of biodegradation depends on the surrounding environmental conditions (e.g. location or temperature), on the material itself, and on the application. Biodegradability is an inherent property of certain bioplastic materials that can benefit specific applications (e.g. food / organic waste bags, food service ware, agricultural films and wraps).
Compostable describes materials that are suitable for microbial treatment at end of life in a composting environment, whether commercial or in the home. Products or materials that pass the required standard for such microbial treatment in these environments may be verified as compostable (biodegradable materials suitable for commercial composting and home composting).
For a product or packaging to be verified compostable it must biologically disintegrate and biodegrade in the relevant composting system to set levels within a defined period of time. The resultant compost must meet specific quality and ecotoxicity criteria.