In our throw-away culture, there is a high need to create materials that can be recycled; biodegradable packaging is one of the new trends for green living. As we focus on making sure more and more of what we toss out from our homes and places of business is biodegradable, we are closer to the goal of making Earth an eco-friendly place with less waste.
What defines biodegradable? This is an important question. There are special characteristics of biodegradable items which include:
- They consist of renewable resources
- Or they can be harvested directly from nature
- Therefore, they can completely decompose, with the aid of micro organisms, when placed in a composting area
Biodegradable seems to be the buzz word these days, although many of the products that claim to be easily decomposed are not. This is largely due to the fact that up until very recently there were no hard-fast rules, guidelines or regulations for products and many manufacturers were calling their plastics and laundry detergents biodegradable, when they were not.
Biodegradable products do not have:
- Harmful chemicals
- Plastic coatings
- The need for excessive energy to create them
Biodegradable Packaging is Plant-Based
Like biodiesel fuel, biodegradable packaging is plant-based. The largest producer of this product created from resin -- which is called PLA (polylactic acid)-- is located outside of Blair, Nebraska. NatureWorks is the name of the manufacturer that uses corn to produce an industrial resin or polymer. NatureWorks claims that their polymer product is "derived from 100 percent annually renewable resources such as corn" and is the "world's first polymer showing a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions."
Making an Impact
Other companies across the globe use alternative biodegradable products - starch, sugar and reeds - to produce their packaging.
Some companies focusing on earth-friendly packing include:
Moving Toward Biodegradable Packing
Prior to recent years, nearly all packaging for food, produce, and supplies were sold in plastics that were oil-based, made from petroleum. Now with the rising costs of oil, companies are looking for ways to save money. When the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart, said that it would sell produce in PLA containers, this boosted sales of biodegradable packaging. Wal-Mart plans to use 114 million PLA containers over the course of a year. It is estimated that this eco-friendly decision will cut down on 800,000 barrels of oil each year.
It is believed that there will be a growing demand for this corn-based biodegradable product, causing the market to grow by about 20 percent over the next year. Consumers and environmentalists, along with national recycling regulations, are helping with the growth.
Biodegradable is Here to Stay
Harald Kaeb, the chairman of Germany's International Biodegradable Polymers Association and Working Groups (IBAW) says the increasing interest in the new PLA technology is because of these main factors which include:
- The improved quality of bioplastics
- The growing market share of these products
- More competition as new bioplastic companies crop up around the world
Purchasing Biodegradable Products
Now that you are more familiar with what it means to be biodegradable and how easily products that are made of natural substances can filter back into the soil instead of piling up in landfills, why not agree to purchase these products? You will be helping our Earth remain green for not only yourself but for future generations.Some stores selling earth-friendly tableware, containers, and even trash bags include:
If your favorite shopping place does not have these products, you can order them online.
To learn more about the future of polymer, visit the website for the Center for Biodegradable Polymer Research.