Conventional plastics are wreaking havoc on our surroundings, and according to the UN Environmental Program, 6.5 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year. Plastic pollution has become a significant area of concern and researchers are finding ways to combat the same. Can bioplastics be the solution to it? Let’s find out.
Bioplastics are an ‘artificial’ form of plastic- renewable and made up of agricultural output such as wastes of food, maize, rice, vegetable oil, etc. They have been popular very recently and are mostly available for use in the form of ‘disposable’ glasses, crockery, packaging, straws etc. They are being used as a replacement to standard plastic and are often endorsed as ‘eco-friendly’.
Why Bioplastics are considered better than Conventional or Regular plastic?
A lower footprint of CO2 – It is projected that by 2050, 15% of the global CO2 emission would be caused due to plastic usage. However, a bio-plastic can have a lower footprint of CO2 considering the production of bioplastic involves CO2 as part of photosynthesis process which is later released at the end of its life cycle, hence the net effect is zero.
Energy costs during manufacturing are low – Conventional plastics require around 4% of the global oil produce each year. Due to the scarcity of oil, the production of regular plastics is exposed to price fluctuation, hence increasing the manufacturing cost. On the other hand, bio-plastic manufacturing doesn’t need oil; instead, they are produced using maize, sugarcane or wheat. Thus, the manufacturing cost is lower.
Litter is reduced due to its biodegradable qualities – This is the most effective quality of the bio-plastic as they cause less litter as compared to their conventional counterparts.
There are a few more benefits to the Bioplastics, viz. –
- Printing on them is easier as compared to the regular ones.
- The texture of this plastic is less oily, and they are clearer and more transparent.
- They are better at absorbing water.
Are bio-plastics really eco-friendly?
The study conducted by the University of Pittsburg, 2018 stated that the production of Bioplastics consists of a process that involves chemicals in its making which are harmful to our environment. Also, the ‘supposedly’ safe plastic affects the ozone layer more than the traditional one.
Notably, the most toxic form of Bio-plastic is the B-PET, a hybrid that has the greatest number of carcinogens.
Another study conducted by researchers at the University of Bonn, Germany states that an increase in demand of bioplastics will result in a vast amount of forest cover being converted to croplands, which in turn will lead to a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions, since forests, owing to their larger biomass, absorb more CO2 than maize or sugarcane.
The ever-increasing demand for the “green” energy sources has already brought extensive deforestation to many countries.
And further deforestation is a big-big NO if one wants to preserve the environment.