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The plastic is so useful for us, but the same artificial material that we know from modern life in countless useful variations may in many cases harm the environment. Do these two – the potential benefits and harms always have to go together? And is biodegradable plastic our solution to this problem? In this article we will answer all the questions.
Plastic is a polymer-based industrial material that is characterized by its great flexibility. By flexibility we mean the possibilities of its processing or its “plasticity”. A biodegradable plastic is a plastic designed for two life stages in which it will function very differently: in the short term it will have the necessary properties for its intended use, even if it is to produce a completely rigid product. In the range beyond the intended use time, it should gradually break down, similar to various natural substances. Natural materials break down under the influence of the weather and various microorganisms that break them down. The plastic can be very resistant to the environmental conditions and also such that the microorganisms do not decompose. That’s why it’s important to understand that designing biodegradable plastic is no small thing.
First, the production process of ordinary plastic is a rather polluting process. Since plastic, as mentioned, is an artificial material, it does not integrate well with nature after its use. Plastic does not contribute anything to the earth or the environment, on the contrary, it is only harmful. Plastic also places a special burden on businesses – on the one hand, they use it quite a bit, but on the other hand, they are required to dispose of plastic products in a manner that complies with laws and regulations. At the same time, the enormous popularity of plastic as a raw material means that it is a very prominent component of human waste. And in addition to all these, there are quite a few disposable plastic products, that is, those that go a very short way from the purchase to the trash can. so what are we doing? There is no quick and easy solution to this. Burning plastic, for example, is not a good solution, it only transfers the damage to the atmosphere instead of harming the soil or water. Not all types of plastic are suitable for recycling, and recycling itself may also be a complex and expensive process. If you read everything you need to know about PVC, you will discover, among other things, that it is a type of plastic that is very suitable for recycling. In fact, PVC is among 6 particularly prominent types of plastic that exist, and each of them is quite different in terms of suitability for recycling.
The bottom line is that many common types of plastic are neither easy nor cost-effective to recycle. So what is the solution? Biodegradable plastic! In fact, even normal plastic eventually degrades, but this process takes too long. Therefore, several types of biodegradable plastic were proactively developed which were designed to improve the situation.
Plastic may be of a type that breaks down (degradable) naturally but into substances that are harmful to the environment. This is of course an inadequate solution and even worse than usual, after all, it is better for a plastic bottle to remain abandoned where it is, than for the same bottle to break down and become polluted without us being aware of it – these types of plastic are called OXO and they include a substance that causes gradual decomposition.
Biological plastic (or bioplastic) is also a type of biodegradable plastic, but it is a material that is based on biological sources, for example a source such as starch, oil or single-celled organisms. These plastics break down naturally in the soil and turn into compost. So between different types of plastic that are described as biodegradable, there may be considerable differences in the result of this decomposition. By the way, the definition of plastic that is considered biodegradable and plastic that is not defined, among other things, in a precise and official way within the framework of standards for this subject.
· Advantages – biodegradable plastic is produced from renewable sources, breaks down in nature by itself and breaks down in a way that is not harmful to the environment.
· Disadvantages – it is important to remember that biodegradable plastic products may also have certain disadvantages. They may be more expensive to produce and incorporating them into the plastic recycling process may complicate matters, for the reason that they continue to degrade.
As in many cases of introducing new technologies, plastic was first included in many products and only later did the safety aspects regarding it begin to advance. It seems, and it is hoped, that the biodegradable plastic that is not harmful to the environment will continue to develop and that its use will expand.