Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Short documentary showing the the pros and cons of plastic in the modern era. Investigating a solution to help us deal with plastic clogging up our planet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Importance of Plastics

Plastics are a subset of materials known as Polymers. These are composed of large molecules formed by joining many smaller molecules together (monomers). Other kinds of polymers are fibres, elastomers,surface coating and biopolymers, such as cellulose, proteins and nucleic acids.
Plastics owe their name to their ability to be shaped to form articles of practical value by various conversion and forming processes. These are some peculiar properties of plastics materials, which make them unique so that products can literally be tailor-made out of these materials.

In fact, plastics have permeated every facet of human life viz. agriculture and water consumption, buiilding construction, communication, small and bulk packaging, education, medicine, transportation, defence, consumer durables to name a few. One of the reasons for great popularity of plastics is due to tremendous range of properties exhibited by them because of their ease of processing. Hence, the demand for plastics has been increasing in modern living. Since last six decades, the Plastic Industry has grown world wide with present consumption of more than 130 MMTPA.

The Polymer/Plastic growth worldwide has been steady around 6% per annum which is much  higher than the GDP growth rate of 3.3%. The higher growth sectors or demand drivers for plastic consumption are consumer and bulk packaging, plasticulturebuilding construction, electrical and electronics, automotive, consumer goods, medical, telecommunication, furniture and household applications. The output value of commodity, engineering and high performance polymers was US$115 billion, accounting for about 7% of total chemical output value globally.

In India, however, the consumption of major plastics is only 3% of global consumption i.e. 4 million tons annually. This is very low as compared to global levels.

Plastics have a very strong correlation with economic growth. The Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) and NCAER have analyzed various industry sectors for the input-output matrix to study the effect of growth of various sectors  on GDP growth. Out of 115 sectors analyzed, the Plastic Resin and Synthetic Fibres sectors ranks a high 37. The importance of this sector can be gauged from the fact that one unit increase in the output value for the plastics sector reflects an increase of 2.38 units in the economy. Over the years the demand elasticity of polymer growth in comparison with GDP growth has been about 2.4  which is in line with the NCAER study.

The growth of Plastic consumption worldwide as well as in India is inevitable and desirable, because multiple advantages that thesematerials provide. some examples are given below as illustrations.

Plastics help improve quality of life: The Internet, globalisation, increased speed of communication, faster means of transportation, the advance of surgical medicine - all these would not be possible without plastics. Continuous technological innovation by the plasticsindustry means that even more efficient, lightweight and adaptable forms of plastics are being developed for an increasing range of uses. It is these advances that allow plastics to play an important role in the pursuit of sustainable development, by bringing innovative solutions to the full range of challenges facing society.

Preserve land, water and forest resources: Plastics have been provifing help to tackle the world's water distribution crisis, with affordable , easily constructed pipiing providing solutions to clean water shortages for 5.5 million people in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Also the use of plastics drastically reduced the use of traditional usage of wood and other forest products thus resulting in reduction of deforestation.

Enable efficient use of non-renewable energy resources: It is estimated that the use of plastics as a whole actually saves more oil than is needed for their manufacture. At end-of-life, plastics can be a valuable alternative energy source in their own right. Plasticsrecycling continues to increase in world while energy recovery is a responsible use of our oil resources, diverting waste from landfill and helping to preserve fossil fuels. Tapping the sun and wind is already bringing clean and efficient energy to people world-wide and is greatly facilitated by the use of plastics that constitute major parts of the cells and turbines.

Possess a more favourable cost-benefit ratio : Continuous improvements in the material itself and recovery technologies mean that, in the future, packaging will become even lighter and more resource-efficient. The recently introduced Smart Card - largely made ofplastics - is a sign of things to come.

Has a very versatile range of applications: Plastics have proved to have a wide range of applications in a large number of fields and their applications are increasing due to advantage of low cost, high durability and easy availability.

Plastics are treated as versatile materials since the properties of these materials can be tailored to meet specific demands by varying molecular weight, molecular weight distribution and side chain branching. Further making copolymers and polymer blends and alloys provide on mechanism for providing a synergism in properties and tailor making materials for specific applications.

Plastics, therefore, clearly form a material of choice in a large number of commercial applications. The demand of Plastics will be further driven by:
  • Population growth and urbanisation
  • Opening of rural markets
  • Explosive Indian middle class
  • Effective Media Network
  • Increased Purchasing Power
  • Higher Disposable Incomes
  • Successful Marketing
  • Brand Awareness
  • Rising Aspirations

Practical uses for Plastic bags in our day to day Living.

63 Uses For Plastic Bags

Don't you just love the plastic shopping bags? Actually it's not just Wally World that has plastic carry-out bags. In any case, these plastic bags are incredibly useful for all sorts of things other than carrying your purchases out to your vehicle. Plastic bags find themselves reincarnated in a million different ways. I've long thought about starting a list of these uses, some seriously useful and some uses downright funny. So here's a list of uses, not necessarily in any sort of order of usefulness.

1. Make a purse out of them by sewing a bunch of them together
2. Use them as small trash can liners.
3. Use them as containers for soiled diapers
4. Use them as containers for used cat liter
4. Use them as a container for dog poop retrieved out of the yard by turning the bag inside-out, putting your hand in it like a make-shift glove and grabbing the poop. Once you've grabbed the poop, use your other hand to turn the bag right side out and the poop will magically be inside the bag. Be sure to use a bag that doesn't have any holes in it!!!!!
5. Use them as mattress stuffing
6. Use them as pillow stuffing
7. Use them as packing material in lieu of the dreaded white foam peanut
8. Tear a piece of the bag off and use it a seal before screwing a cap back onto a bottle or jar that might decide to leak
9. Use them as a food-stain-proof cook book cover
10. Use large plastic bags to keep lawn furniture covered
11. Use them as small-but-handy lawn clean-up bags
12. Use them to store wet beach towels in
13. Use them to avoid putting money in a parking meter -- put the bag over the meter and tie the bag's handles together, then take a black magic marker and write "broken" on both sides in large block letters. Preferably use bags that are a solid color, such as red or yellow
14. Use them as luggage when traveling. Use the Wally World smiley-faced bags as matched luggage for that  extra designer touch...
15. Use them as you would a rubber glove when you don't have rubber gloves handy
16. Use them to carry large amounts of mail in
17. Use them to help make a credit card or other magnetic stripped card swipe when the card by itself won't swipe by putting it inside the bag. Not sure why this one works but it does. I see people do it in truck stops constantly.
Once we've gone to mandatory hand chip implants I wonder if the tip in number 15. will help make reluctant implant chips scan by using them as a make-shift rubber glove?
18. Use them as a kite to keep a kid (or yourself) amused
19. Use them to catch stray paint droplets when you are painting
20. Use them as flags
21. Use a solid white one tied onto a pole as a truce flag
22. Use a solid white one tied to your car antenna or rolled up in a road-facing window when you are parked on the side of the road in case your car breaks down
23. Use them as rubber boots to keep your feet dry
24. Use them as back packs for kids by putting their arms through the handles
25. Use them as socks
26. Use them as a doggie bag when you are in a restaurant and want to take a piece of chicken home with you in a purse or pocket
27. Use them to store dirty clothes in when you are traveling
28. Use them as a shoe-horn when trying on shoes at a garage sale
29. Use them to protect the plaster cast so you can take a shower after you break your foot
30. Use them as diapers
31. Use them as bandages
32. Use them as freezer bags
33. Use them to wrap up leftovers to keep them from drying out in the refrigerator
34. Use them as bread bags for homemade bread made in an electric bread maker
35. Use large ones to cover clothes in a closet or while traveling to keep the clothes clean
36. Use large ones to slip over ceiling fan blades when cleaning the blades to catch the dust and keep it from falling on the floor
37. Use them as a toy parachute
38. Use them as handy sick bags when someone is sick to their stomach...
39. Use one to wrap your lunch sandwiches in to keep it from getting soggy in a cooler with other items that might sweat
40. Use a small one as a rain bonnet
41. Use a big one as a raincoat
42. Put them on your wiper blades and mirrors in the winter to keep them free from snow and ice
43. Use them as a cheap collectable -- nearly everyone seems to collect plastic bags either in their home or car or both
44. Use one to hold your clothespins when you are hanging your clothes out to dry
45. Use them as a trash can
46. Store your shoes in plastic bags when you have them inside your suitcase to keep from making the rest of your clothing stink like your smelly feet
47. Use one as a makeshift condom
48. Use one to carry popcorn in
49. Store wet paint brushes in them after you've washed out the paintbrush
50. Use them to store rags in
51. Use them as inexpensive home insulation
52. Use them when re-upholstering boat seats between the foam padding and the vinyl upholstery to make the seats semi-water proof
53. Use them to put used oil filters in to keep them from contaminating the rest of the trash
54. Use them as flexible molds for the spray foam that hardens to fill in holes in walls, etc.
55. Use them as kindling to start fires with, even in the rain, since once they start burning the heat is intense -- just avoid inhaling the toxic fumes they give off !!!!!!
56. Use them as a porta-potty liner
57. Use them for emergency toilet paper
58. Use them for emergency tissue paper
59. Use them to carry your Wally World purchases home...
60. Use them as emergency socks
61. Use them as emergency underwear
62. Use them as an emergency barf bag
63. Weave them into an inexpensive rug!!!!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Oxo Biodegradable Plastic in Flexible Packaging Applications

  • Carrier bags or "shopper-bags" which consumers use to take away their purchases from the shop

  • Refuse sacks, which consumers buy in rolls at the shop, and use for disposal of their ordinary household waste.

  • Aprons, for the protection of garments, in the home, hospitals, restaurants, workshops etc.

  • Bags to contain dog faeces collected in parks, gardens, etc

  • Plastic film for wrapping newspapers and magazines.

  • Bread bags

  • Frozen food bags

  • This environmentally responsible bag is based upon oxo-biodegradable technology and will degrade in the presence of moisture, micro-organisms, oxygen, and soil.

  • Bags are fully tested and certified by Oxo-biodegradable Plastic Association.

  • Bags will degrade in landfills.

  • Bags will not produce toxic residue.

  • Reduces greenhouse gas effects.

  • Creative new formula to enhance strength, function, reduce raw material used and cost saving.

  • Perfect for foodservice operators, schools and hospitals.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why Should I Be Eco-Conscious?

Important Quote

 -"Many people believe that we are facing an ecological disaster. Every day we hear horrific statistics: the process seems unstoppable. And the destruction recognizes no national frontiers. I know all this, yet I cannot really comprehend it. I have the simple thought that my day starts differently if, in the morning, the sun is shining and I can gaze upon a tree bursting with strength. It smiles at me and all at once I feel like smiling back."-         Arpad G√∂ncz - the President of Hungary

"Why should I be eco-conscious?" you ask. 

There is a very simple reason: We live on one earth, and this is the only place we can live on right now. (We can't live in space yet, we don't have the food growing capacity out there yet for lots of people to survive). If we treat it like the city dump it becomes dirty and unlivable. If we treat it well by being eco-conscious, the earth stays a clean place, perfect for living, for ourselves and our children.

What is "eco-conscious" anyway?
Being "eco-conscious" means being aware of what you are doing, buying, using, and what it does to the environment. For example, you might think, "Using a hairspray bottle is so convenient for fixing my hair." If you were eco-conscious, though, you'd realize "Does this hairspray bottle have CFCs in it? Could I be participating in helping to destroy the Earth by using hairspray?"

How can I be eco-conscious?
You can find many ways to help save our environment by going to the "Ways to Help" page on our site. Also, jump to our links page, which has links to many environmental groups. These groups also list many ways to help keep our world safe. 


Think Quest
Oracle Educational Foundation

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Types of Biodegradable Plastic

Believe it or not, many products today, from eating utensils to product packaging, can be made from some type of biodegradable plastic. The benefit of this is the plastic can break down without damaging the environment instead of taking up room in landfills or polluting the earth and oceans. While not perfected, the use of biodegradable plastic is becoming more wide spread. As technology continues to progress, you will find more and more companies using these types of plastics.

Different Types of Biodegradable Plastic

Maybe you knew that companies are starting to use biodegradable plastics. What you may not know is that there are several different kinds of these plastics available to manufacturers today. 

While you probably won't be able to tell what type of biodegradable plastic you are using, you will still find it interesting to learn about what is out there. 

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 compostability, breaking down 60 percent or more within 180 days or less. In order to do this, bio-based plastics need water, heat and aeration.
The downside of bio-based plastics is that they take much longer to compost if they are in a landfill because landfills lack one key component - aeration. They can also be a bit pricey and are not recyclable.
An example of bio-based plastic is Spudware, which was used during the 2005 X-games. Spudware is, quite simply, forks, spoons and knives made from potato starch. It looks the same as traditional plastic flatware, but unlike its conventional counterpart, Spudware is compostable.
Other earth-friendly products used at the X-games include plastic cups made from corn as well as plates and bowls made from sugar cane. These utensils were gathered into compostable plastic trash bags and taken to a local compost facility. 

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 foods because it is non-toxic, and it can often be recycled.The downside of this type of biodegradable plastic is that it may start to degrade if it is stored in a hot place-trash bags in the garage for example. Sometimes you will see these plastics labeled with an expiration date.

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


Friday, March 11, 2011

Degradable Plastic Bag Act of 2011

PIA Press Release
Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Eco-friendly plastics seen to solve country's economic woes

MANILA, Mar 2 (PIA) - Biodegradable plastic bags will not only solve environment concerns in the country; it will also help some 180,000 workers keep their jobs.

This,according to Caloocan City Rep. Oscar Malapitan who has recently filed a bill entitled “Degradable Plastic Bag Act of 2011” which seeks to promote the use of an additive that would allow plastic to decay in 30 to 45 days depending on exposure to sunlight. This makes these plastic bags environment-friendly.

The plastic reformulation degrades without harmful residues, according to the Philippine Plastic Industry Association (PPIA) whose member companies are now advocating oxo-biodegradable technology.
The oxo-biodegradable plastics has been certified by the Department of Science and Technology and is supported by the Oxo-biodegradable Plastic Association of London — a group of distinguished polymer scientists.

Malapitan said that there are many bills banning plastic products still pending in Congress.
He added that banning the use of plastic products will affect not only businesses but may cause thousands of people to lose their jobs.

He also said that in Caloocan alone, the city earns about $50 million in revenues, and the plastic industry has provided employment to thousands of Filipinos. (PIA-NCR/Alfred Guiang)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Are You a Green Cleaner? : Planet Green - Games & Quizzes : Planet Green

Are You a Green Cleaner? : Planet Green - Games & Quizzes : Planet Green

Paper Vs. Plastic Bags?

Paper Vs. Plastic Bags?

By Rachel Decker and Anders Graff
For Dr. Candice Bradley Ecological Anthropology 36

Lawrence University

We've all been in the grocery store, at one time or another, and been asked, "Paper or plastic?" Do you remember which you chose? Moreover, why did you make that particular choice? And, was it an informed decision?
In our era of ecological and environmental awakening, the question of paper or plastic bags should be taken, and considered seriously. Everyone uses bags; Everybody has this choice. Why do we have a choice? It is a question of environmental impact, and it should be the responsibility of us all to make the most ecologically aware, and sound decision.
This homepage is an exploration of, and an attempt to answer, the question of which, indeed, is the better choice, paper or plastic bags?

Where it comes from: Paper.

Paper comes from trees, and the pulpwood tree industry is large. It begins with logging, where select trees are found, marked, and felled. After they're cut, roads are built into the forest on which the large machinery, used to load and transport the timber, can be moved. This process creates a tremendous scar in the forests natural habitat(s), for both plant and animal. It can take over a century for nature to recover from even a small logging operation. Addedly, if the small operation clears only 10 acres, many hundreds of acres surrounding are affected due to the extreme interplay/interdependency in nature.
Let it be added further that a large amount of heavy machinery is used, all having its own story on how it came to be, all needing its own upkeep, and all needing its own fossil fuel, to operate. On top of this, there is the human element. Logging is dangerous. Extreme fatigue, long term physical handicaps, and numerous accidents plague the less-than-wealthy loggers.

Logs are moved from the forest to a mill. Whence they reach a mill, there is a three year wait before they can be used, allowing proper drying. When the time comes, the logs are stripped of bark, and chipped into inch-wide squares. They are stored until needed, and then cooked with tremendous heat and pressure. After this, they are are "digested" with a limestone and sulphurous acid for eight hours. The steam and moisture is vented into the outside atmosphere, and the original wood becomes pulp. For every ton of pulp made it takes over three tons of wood, initally.

The pulp is washed and bleached, both stages requiring thousands of gallons of clean water. After this, coloring is added to more water, and is then combined in a ratio of 1 part pulp to 400 parts water to finally make paper. The pulp/water "brew" is dumped onto a web of bronze wires, the water showers through, leaving the pulp, which, in turn, is rolled into finished paper.

It must be noted that this is the paper making process. All cutting, printing, packaging, and shipping, requires additional time, labor, and energy, on top of the already exorbant amounts of capital, electricity, chemicals, and fossil fuels used.

Where it comes from: Plastic.

Plastic comes from oil, and the oil industry is no small operation. In many places around the world, and in the U.S., sites exist where the geologic conditions are such that a gas and oil concentration has been trapped. Upon location of these traps, a hole is drilled and a pipe rammed into the oil deposit. The oil is pushed to the surface due to pressure in its chamber, and also from the weight of earth above. The oil drilling operation, itself, has become a rather small and sterile undertaking. An oil drilling/pumping rig is roughly the size of a house, and very little oil is spilled, anymore. Literally, you could 'mine' oil in your backyard.
At the drilling site, a storage drum is filled, and, when full, the content oil is loaded into trucks, but sometimes piped, to a refining facility. This is where plastic is made.

Plastic comes as a by-product of oil refining, and uses only 4% of the total worlds oil production. It is a 'biogeochemical' manipulation of certain properties of oil, into polymers, that behave 'plastically.' Plastic polymers are manufactured into 5 main types, of which, plastic bags are made of the type known as Polyethylene. Raw Polyethylene comes from oil refineries as resin pellets, usually 3-5 mm diameter, by 2-3 mm tall. The raw material, as it is called, since it is plastic, can be manipulated into any shape, form, size, or color. It is water tight, and can be made UV resistant. Anything can be printed on it, and it can be reused.

Since plastic is so maliable, there are numerous process used to turn plastic into finished goods. To make bags, a machine heats the Polyethylene to about 340 F and extrudes, or pulls out from it, a long, very thin, tube of cooling plastic. This tube has a hot bar dropped on it at intervals however long the desired bag is to be, melting a line . Each melt line becomes the bottom of one bag, and the top of another. The sections, then, are mearely cut out, and a hole that is to be used as the bags' handle is stamped in each piece. Further finishing may be done such as, screen printing, however, for the majority of bags, it's off to the stores, etc., where they will be used.

With the exception of large, fuel burning, heavy machinery, used in the aquisition of oil, the entire plastic bag making process uses only electricity. The electricity used from start to resin/raw material is mostly nuclear. The power used in the bag manufacturing, for the most part, comes from coal fire power plants. One interesting note is that approximately 50% of the electricity generated from coal burning power plants is not from coal at all, it is, in fact, wrought from the burning of old tires, they being made of rubber, which is plastic.

Where it goes to: Paper.

When paper is thrown away, it can go to one of two places: The landfill or the recycling center. If it goes to the landfill, it will decay in time. If it is recycled, the paper will go through a lengthy process of disintegration and renewal.
When paper first reaches the recycling center, it must be returned to the state of pulp by using many different chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide, and sodium silicate. These chemicals will bleach and disperse the pulp fibers. The fibers are then run through cleaning and screening sequences which remove any contaminants. The pulp must then be washed with clean water to remove ink particles that were removed from the paper by the chemical process.

Flotation is a widely-used method of removing the ink. The pulp is submerged in water, and heated. The ink attaches to air bubbles, which must then be removed before they break and let the ink float back to the pulp. This is a tedious process, involving a watchful eye and careful timing.

Most recycling centers will treat the water they used, and remove any contaminants. Screens and mechanical cleaners are the most common, which may let chemicals slip through. Another clean-up treatment that these centers will use is called "sludge handling". Sludge is composed of water, inks, pigments and small particles of waste. The materials are separated and cleaned. By including this process, it reduces any waste that may have to be taken to the landfill. These materials can be used in bricks and fertilizers as well as other useful products.

Where it goes to: Plastic.

Like paper, when plastic has been used, it can go to one of two places: The landfill or the recycling center. In a landfill, plastics make up 7% of the waste by weight, and 18% by volume. Of the 44,100 million pounds of plastic products made each year, 26,700 million pounds ends up as municipal solid waste.
As landfill useage decreases each year, it is becoming more popular to incinerate our garbage. Today, with the requirement of emission controls on smoke stacks, burning garbage is 99.9% cleaner than in days of yore. About 10% of all garbage is burned, of this, plastic makes up, as previously stated, 18%.

One of plastics greatest assets is its recycleability. To recycle almost any kind of plastic is to mearely re-melt, and re-form. The re-melting will sterilize, allowing any recycled plastic to be used in even hospital grade products. And plastic can be re-formed into anything, many times over before it becomes brittle, whence it can be made into an ashtry or a mouse pad. If society were to implement a strict plastic recycling, an enormous percentage of plastic would efficiently be used, again.

Impact: Paper.

The recycling of paper is essential in cutting down on landfills: each day, enough paper is recycled to fill a fifteen-mile long train of boxcars. When this statistic was taken in 1993, only 40 percent of paper used was being recycled. That left a lot that was thrown into landfills. By the year 2000, it is estimated that 78 percent of all paper used in the United States will be recycled, as well as 15 percent of all paper overseas.
Buying recycled paper is usually more expensive than buying virgin paper products, but the government, in an attempt to encourage recycling, presented purchasing mandates that can allow a 10 to 15 percent price premium so that it can compete with other cheaper paper products.

Another factor to consider is water pollution. The making of paper, whether virgin or recycled, uses many thousands of gallons of clean water that can soon become polluted in the papermaking process. Virgin paper creates 35 percent more water pollution than recycled paper. Recycled paper also creates 74 percent less air pollution than virgin paper. However, both types of paper can contribute to contaminating area waters. Scientific evidence shows that fish can experience adverse effects through chemicals that reside in sediment. It can more than three years for any level of toxicity to lower.

Impact: Plastic.

Plastic impacts in two ways: First, it hits the environment in its use of electricity when being manufactured. More than half of the power needed to make plastic bags is generated by nuclear fission. While controversial, it is argued that nuclear power puts no direct harm or detriment into the environment. The only drawback to nuclear power is the radioactive waste, which is, so far, being safely diposed of in deep underground caves. And, in deep sea trenches where the nuclear waste is subducted into earths mantle and incinerated.
Pertaining to the rest of the electricity needed to make plastic bags, coal fire does pollute. But, plastic can be burned. In fact, the burning of plastic will yield from 10,000 to 20,000 btu per pound, of which 60% can be recovered. As stated above, plastic is burned to create electriciy, hence, we could use plastic to make plastic, and reduce sulphur emissions from coal.

There is the question, though, of recovery of energy by burning plastic. This, too, causes controversy but only because of mental block. If 93% of all oil is burned straight away, why can't the 4% used as plastic have a second life as energy? The burning of plastics isn't without its drawbacks. Inks and additives to some plastics can create dioxins, and emit heavy metals when burned. Also, after being burned, the toxic ash still needs to be disposed of in toxic wase dumps. Another problem with the incineration of plastic is the arguement that the energy produced by the process doesn't justify the misuse of a limited natural resource. The plastics already produced are better utilized by making new plastic materials by recycling.

The second way plastic impacts is through landfills. Plastic will never break down; It will never disappear. Biodegradeable plastic is a misnomer because wood fiber has been mixed with the plastic so when buried, the wood dissolves leaving a million tiny pieces of plastic, instead of one bag. As stated, plastics make up 18% of waste by volume, and 7% by weight. If plastic were to be replaced in its uses by other materials, rubbish weight would increase by 150%, packaging would weigh 300% more, and energy consumed by the industry would increase by 100%. It has been found that the reduced weight of plastic has spillover benefits, elsewhere. Reduction of weight in aircraft saves an average of 10,000 gallons of fuel per plane, per annum, world over. In automobiles, it is directly responsible for doubling the fuel efficiency since the 1970's. Applied to plastic bags, they reduce weight in landfills; They take up less space. This being in light of the discovery that most landfills are air tight, not allowing decomposition, leaving readable newspapers and chicken bones with meat still on them.


The making of paper can waste many thousands of gallons of water, as can the recycling of paper. The human and mechanical efforts and costs are very high, not forgetting the physical cost to loggers and those who work around the numerous chemicals. Plastic is, by comparison, efficient and low energy to produce, and, easily and efficiently recycled. Plastic reduces, recycles marvelously, and in that, is reused. After contrasting the efforts behind the making of paper and plastic, it is our unbiased opinion that plastic is indeed more beneficial to the environment, in that it is less harmful. The next time you are asked the dreaded question, "Paper or plastic?", you can answer knowing that you are making the informed choice.


Arnold, Frank. "Life Cycle Doesn't Work." The Environmental Forum. Washington, D.C. Vol. 10. No. 5. Sept. 1993.
Banuri, Tariq, ed. Who Will Save the Forests? New Jersey: United Nations U., 1993.

Borchardt, John K. "Chemistry of Unit Operations in Paper Deinking Mills". Plastics, Rubber, and Paper Recycling. Radar, Charles P., ed. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, 1995.

Convex Plastics. Web Site. New Zealand. 1996.

"Degradeable Additives for Plastic Compost Bags." Biocycle. Vol. 36. No. 3. March, 1995.

Goff, Matthew. "Paper Vs. Plastic: The Great Supermarket Debate". Web Site (Linked). 1997.

Janda, Bruce W. "Advances in Paper Fiber Recycling: Meeting the Challenge". Plastics, Rubber, and Paper Recycling. Radar, Charles P., ed. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, 1995.

Northern Paper Mills. Wood to Pulp to Paper. Milwaukee, WI: Wetzel Bros., (no date).

Scandia Plastics. (Interview). Sheboygan, WI. 1997.

Weaver, Rob. "Determining the Density of Plastic". Industrial and Environmental Chemistry Spring 1996. Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The case for oxo-bio in plastic packaging

Professor Gerald Scott, of the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association, explains how making plastics oxo-biodegradable can contribute to the health of the planet

Everyone is aware of public concern about plastic waste in the open environment. All plastics will fragment and be bioassimilated, but the process can take many decades. The answer is to make ordinary and recycled polymers oxo-biodegradable, and about 20 billion such products were made last year.

Formulations which cause oxobiodegradation are usually compounds of cobalt, iron, nickel or manganese and are added to conventional polymers at the extrusion stage. They reduce the molecular weight by an abiotic process in the presence of oxygen – allowing the plastic to be then consumed by bacteria and fungi more quickly than nature’s lignocellulosic wastes and much more quickly than non-degradable plastics. The formulations have been tested and proved not to be eco-toxic – in particular they do not contain ‘heavy metals’.

Oxo-biodegradable plastics are normally tested according to ASTM D6954-04 Standard Guide for Exposing and Testing Plastics that Degrade in the Environment by a Combination of Oxidation and Biodegradation. There are two types of Standards – Standard Guides and Standard Specifications. The 6954 was developed by the American standards organization, and the second Tier relates specifically to biodegradation.

The ASTM D6954-04 tests tell industry and consumers what they need to know – whether the plastics is (a) degradable (b) biodegradable and (c) non eco-toxic. It is not necessary to use a Standard Specification unless the material is intended for a particular purpose. D6954 provides that if composting is the designated disposal route, ASTM D6400 should be used.

ASTM D6954-04 not only provides test methods but also pass/fail criteria. For example, para. 6.6.1 requires that 60% of the organic carbon must be converted to CO2. It is not necessary to test until 100% has been converted, because it is possible, by applying the Arrhenius relationship to predict the time at which complete biodegradation in the environment is likely to occur. D6954 tests are usually conducted by independent and accredited laboratories. I have seen many test reports and am satisfied that oxo-bio products will totally biodegrade in the presence of oxygen. Pre-treatment does not invalidate the results as extrapolated to real-world conditions.

There is no requirement in D6954-04 for the plastics to convert to C02 in 180 days because, while short timescales are critical for industrial composting, they are not critical for biodegradation in the environment. Nature’s wastes such as straw and twigs may take 10 years or more to biodegrade, but oxo-bio plastics will biodegrade more quickly than that, and much more quickly than ordinary plastics. Oxo-bio is not intended for landfill, as it is undesirable for anything to decompose deep in landfill unless the landfill is designed to collect the gas, which most are not. Deep in landfill oxo-bio will be inert, like ordinary plastic, but compostable plastic can emit methane, which is a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than CO2.

It is sometimes claimed that a plastics product is not ‘biodegradable’ unless it can comply with EN13432 (and similar standards such as ISO 17088, ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868, and Australian 4736-2006). This is not correct. These standards are appropriate for composting but they are not suitable for products designed to biodegrade if they get into the open environment. Indeed EN13432 itself says it is not appropriate for plastics waste which ends up in the environment through uncontrolled means.

Industrial composting is not the same as biodegradation in the environment, as it is an artificial process with a much shorter timescale than the processes of nature. Compostable plastics are not suitable for home-composting. The requirement in EN13432 and similar standards for 90% conversion to CO2 gas within 180 days is not useful even for composting, because it contributes to climate change instead of improving the soil. Nature’s lignocellulosic wastes do not behave in this way. In June 2009 Germany’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Research concluded that oil-based plastics, especially if recycled, have a better Life-cycle Analysis than compostable plastics.

Oxo-bio plastics can be recycled in the same way as ordinary plastics and does not need special collection points. By contrast, “compostable” plastics cannot be recycled with ordinary plastics, and will ruin the recycling process if it gets into the waste stream. Recyclers should be worried about vegetable-based plastics – but not about oxo-bio.