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Advantages and Disadvantages of Bioplastics

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#1 silvita


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Posted 19 July 2009 - 10:23 AM

Read up on Bioplastics:.http://bit.ly/FyjSi
22 minutes ago from web

What are the advantages of bioplastics? What are the disadvantages of bioplastics? Are there standards bioplastic products have to meet? How can one find or buy bioplastic utensils (forks, spoons, knives), plates, bowls, and containers?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Bioplastics (Biodegradable Plastic)

Diamonds are said to be 'forever'—or at least until you have to fight for them in a divorce proceeding you ended up in because you both spent more time worrying about expensive gifts than each others' true needs, like which TV programs have priority.

Plastic, on the other hand, is truly forever, at least on any time scale that is meaningful to us and future generations. It breaks down excruciatingly  slowly. In the meantime, plastic litter creates an eyesore and plastic waste in the ocean kills sea creatures and contaminates the food chain. Yet plastic is an almost inescapable part of everyday modern living. What to do?

A new breed of plastic made from plants—called bioplastic—are biodegradable, apparently offering a solution to one of the big problems with our disposable plastic society. But how true are these claims? Is "biodegradable plastic" just a myth? Our guest article today, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, gives a quick summary of the advantages and disadvantages of bioplastics, especially as they pertain to plastic silverware, plates, bowls, and bags.

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Do Bioplastics Deserve a Seat at Your Table?
by the Union of Concerned Scientists
Unlike typical plastics made from crude oil, "bioplastics" are often made from plant matter such as corn starch, potato starch, cane sugar, and soy protein. A potentially renewable alternative to petroleum-based plastics would have the long-term benefits of reducing global warming pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels. But do bioplastics really fit the bill? As they become more ubiquitous—in the form of grocery bags and disposable plates, food containers, and cutlery—numerous concerns have been raised about their merits:

Bioplastics are designed to be composted, not recycled. The plant-based material will actually contaminate the recycling process if not separated from conventional plastics such as soda bottles and milk jugs.
Home composting may not be an option. Some bioplastics cannot be broken down by the bacteria in our backyards. Polyethylene (PE) made from cane sugar is one example of this. Only bioplastics that are fully biodegradable will break down in a home compost pile, and it could still take up to two years for certain items (e.g., forks and spoons). The rest require the high heat and humidity of an industrial composting facility. There are only about 100 of those in the country, and not all accept bioplastic waste.
Plants grown for bioplastics have negative impacts of their own. Bioplastics are often produced from genetically modified food crops such as corn, potatoes, and soybeans, a practice that carries a high risk of contaminating our food supply. Also, corn and soybean producers typically apply large amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that pollute our air and water. To compound matters, the growth of the bioplastics and biofuels industries (both of which currently rely on food crops as their raw material) increases the demand for crops, puts pressure on food prices, and increases the impact of agriculture worldwide.
Environmental advocates are calling for bioplastic production based on renewable crops (such  as native wild grasses) grown without chemicals. Bioplastics could also be developed from agricultural waste. Until then, what's a consumer to do?

1. Look for the "Compostable" logo. The Biodegradable Products Institute identifies products appropriate for municipal and commercial composting facilities. To find facilities in your state, see the Related Resources.

2. Opt for reusable or recycled instead. When you can't use metal cutlery or ceramic dishes—which should always be the first choice—look for recycled, dishwasher-safe plastic products that can be recycled once they are no longer usable.

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