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.


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