Most of us have understood for years that plastic is an environmental no-no. Its fuel based, requires lots of energy to produce and it clogs up landfills for what might as well be forever. Every year, our landfills handle tens of billions of tons of plastic. And in this case “handle” means “do nothing with”. Plastic just sits there unfazed for hundreds of years. The microbes that degrade other trash don’t want anything to do with plastic.

The un-dissolving night mare

This plastic night mare sparked the move from plastic to paper grocery bags, cardboard instead of plastic for prepared foods and products like the exclusive-to-Japan Toyota Raum — a car whose interior boasts some “eco-plastic” components.

Plant based-resin

Eco-plastics come in all different forms. Some are simply plastics made all or partially from recycled traditional plastics. These “eco-plastics” aren’t any more biodegradable than the non recycled kind, but they have the environmental benefit of keeping a lot of that non biodegradable stuff out of landfills in the first place.

But when people talk about environmentally friendly plastic, they’re more often talking about “bio plastics,” a very different animal. Bio plastics are made from biological material instead of from fossil fuels, and they’re supposed to have very different properties from traditional plastics. There’s also a pretty new subgroup of plastics made with synthetic materials that might react differently in landfills from the regular stuff.

 

TYPES OF ECO-PLASTICS:

Eco-plastics come in several different flavors:

1.      Recycled petroleum-based plastics

2.       plant-derived (bio) plastics and

… Miscellaneous. Each boasts different “green” properties.

Recycled traditional plastic is composed of varying percentages of “virgin” (non re-cycled), traditional plastic. The eco draw here is that all that virgin plastic is reused to make your lawn furniture instead of being tossed into a landfill. This type is no more biodegradable than the original, though.

 

A quality assurance analyst pours pellets of corn plastic into a dish

 

Bioplastic is made from plant material and it should degrade relatively quickly in landfills and, in some cases, compost bins. The most common forms are starch-based (often corn starch), like polyactide (PLA) plastic, which is the most common form. You’ll find PLA in things like biodegradable food-service trays and disposable cups. Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) plastic uses starch also, typically from corn or sugarcane or beetroot, and it shows up in things like cosmetics bottles. Cellulose-based plastics are made of cellulose, the main component in plant tissues. You’ll also find bioplastics made from soy protein or lactic acid.

Growing Bioplastics in switch grass

 

ECM Biofilms has come up with a way to add microbe-attracting pellets during the manufacturing process for traditional plastics, causing the end product to degrade faster in landfills.

CAN PLASTICS REALLY GO GREEN?

While all of these eco-plastics offer some type of environmental benefit over traditional plastics, the issue ultimately comes down to theory versus practice. In theory, these plastics are biodegradable. But since they’re pretty new, at least in industrial terms, the long-term research is a bit lacking.

Let’s have a simple view on the practical application of these so called “eco-plastics”.

PLA is, in fact, biodegradable, but it’s not easily biodegradable. Though the stuff should break down after it’s dumped, there’s no definitive evidence on whether that’ll happen quickly or just eventually. As for degrading in compost bins, some research says it’ll take anywhere from three months to one year; others have found that it won’t happen at all in home compost settings.

We do know that until it breaks down, it’ll be taking up as much space as the petroleum-based plastic. Bioplastic containers typically contain at least as much material as traditional plastic containers.

Research says that the instant degradation of these will happen only on papers what they write but not practically. If these eco-plastics make their way through the upcoming Nanotechnology, then they can be more efficient and can make our world one green home…

Posted By

Gopichand(2/4 ECE) MGIT

 

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