Bioplastics is emerging as a quickly growing industry. Touting renewable plant-based production materials, companies hope to market their green image to an increasingly environmentally aware consumer.
Bioplastics are used for disposable items such as plastic cutlery and packaging, as well as in the technology and automotive industries. Rather than being produced from petroleum, which is an expensive pollutant, this plastic can be derived from plant fibers and vegetable oil.
Although utilizing cheaper and less toxic materials, the production process for bioplastics still requires petroleum.
Bioplastics may not biodegrade, either. According to wikipedia, “most bioplastics will only degrade in the tightly controlled conditions of industrial composting units. In compost piles or simply in the soil/water, most bioplastics will not degrade; starch-based bioplastics will, however.”
According to Packaging Knowledge, a cup made from cornstarch acts no differently than one made from petroleum when buried beneath the surface of a landfill: Without air and heat, it stays intact.
Despite the obvious challenges to the industry, it seems Bioplastics are here to stay. Wal-Mart and Sony in the US are using the technology in their products, as well as the large chain Marks and Spencer in the UK. It’s important to research the impact of each supposedly “green” plastic, to see how it is produced and also how it is designed for disposal.