Types of Biodegradable Plastic

Biodegradable Plastic Bag

Many products today can be made from some type of biodegradable plastic, from eating utensils to product packaging. This plastic can break down without damaging the environment, instead of taking up room in landfills or polluting the earth and oceans. While not perfect, the use of biodegradable plastic is becoming more widespread. As technology continues to progress, more and more companies are turning to these types of plastics.

Different Types of Biodegradable Plastic

There are several different kinds of these plastics available to manufacturers today. While you probably can't tell which type of biodegradable plastic you're using, you can still find it interesting to learn about what is available and being used.

Bio-Based

Bio- or starch-based plastics, are made from corn, soy or potatoes. These plastics meet standards set by the American Society for Testing and Material (ASTM) for composting, breaking down 60 percent or more within 180 days or less. In order to do this, bio-based plastics need water, heat and aeration.

Examples of products include:

  • Spudware: It looks the same as traditional plastic flatware, but unlike its conventional counterpart, Spudware is compostable.This product was used during the 2005 X-games (extreme sports event). Made from potato starch, Spudware is available in forks, spoons and knives.
  • Other earth-friendly products used at the X-games included plastic cups made from corn as well as plates and bowls made from sugar cane. After the event, these utensils were gathered into compostable plastic trash bags and taken to a local compost facility.

Downsides

There are a couple of negatives when using bio-based plastics. These products can often:

  • Take much longer to compost if in landfill since landfills lack one key component - aeration
  • Be a bit pricey
  • Not be recyclable

Thermal-Based Film

Thermal-based biodegradable plastic has an additive that causes it to break down when exposed to high temperatures. This plastic is safe to use for food containers since it is non-toxic. Most times, this product can also be recycled.

Two Types of Film

The two main types of this film are oxo- and hydro-biodegradable. The difference is that oxo- needs oxygen in order to break down while hydro- needs moisture.

  • Oxo-biodegradable plastic: This plastic is less expensive to produce since it is easy to use with machinery that currently manufactures conventional plastics. When aerated, it gradually breaks down into biodegradable fragments over a course of several months to a few years.
  • Hydro-biodegradable plastic breaks down when exposed to moisture at a faster rate than oxo-biodegradable plastic.

Downsides of Oxo and Hydro-biodegradable Plastic

Shelf-life and degradation can be two of the downsides to this type of biodegradable plastic.

  • Plastic may start to degrade if it's stored in a hot place, such as a trash bag in an outside garage container.
  • Some of these plastics are labeled with an expiration date.

Additive-Based Film Combo

Another additive-based film is manufactured by Maverick Enterprises, known as Green Film™. This film degrades first into humus and then into carbon dioxide or methane and water when buried. It also:

  • Breaks down with or without aeration
  • Has no expiration date
  • Can also be recycled

Other Biodegradable Plastics

Other biodegradable plastic manufacturers include:

Begin Using Today

Biodegradable plastics have a long way to go in regard to the length of time it takes to break down, and their ability to hold up to household wastes. While the cost continues to come down, they are still a better alternative to standard plastics. If you opt to incorporate this type of plastic into your household, you can make a difference in the type of waste that goes to the landfill.

Types of Biodegradable Plastic