No more bioplastic

Engr Sabir Hussain

Plastic harms our life and health from its extraction to disposal in its whole lifetime cycle. It pollutes the environment and can cause the risk of cancer in public. Furthermore, the chemical content of plastic reached to human bodies causes thousands of deaths and new diseases. In addition, it is the core reason for unstable biodiversity and ecosystem. Approximately, 85 percent of marine waste is a major danger for marine life. It affects climate change as it is derived from fossil fuel and at the end it is burnt as a method of disposal which surges greenhouse gas emissions.

Bioplastic is a renowned terminology in plastic market which claimed to be environment friendly but understanding of bioplastic terminology is crucial to know the risk of it in terms of climate change. Bioplastic refers to bio-based plastic or biodegradable plastic. Bio-based plastic is a kind of plastic that is made up from biological feedstock partially or entirely such as potatoes starch or corn. Also, it still contains fossil fuels and its chemical composition is approximately identical to conventional plastic. On the other hand, biodegradable plastic under some special conditions can be broken down into carbon dioxide, water, and some other natural components by microorganisms like fungus and bacteria. Similarly, compositable plastic is the subset of biodegradable plastic that can be fully biodegraded under specific conditions of an industrial composting facility.

It is usually confusing for consumers when it comes to the question of how to deposit bioplastic? Therefore, it is important to know that some bioplastics can be recycled while others cannot be. Biodegradable plastic is not meant for recycling and can only be decomposed by microorganisms. Importantly, bioplastic is harmful and even worse than conventional plastic in terms of energy use, climate change, and air pollution etc. In some cases, plastic should be 20 percent bio-based to meet the certification requirements. Furthermore, if bioplastic replaces conventional plastic completely then the demand of feedstock crops, the cost of food, and conversion of forests to agriculture land will surge globally.

In fact, bioplastic is inherently toxic and produces toxic bio products during production and contains toxic additives. Moreover, many studies show that biodegradable plastic fails to completely biodegrade in real world environment and can persist intact for years before breaking into equally persistent micro plastics. Neither compostable nor biodegradable plastic is intended or well-suited for reuse, as it is designed to degrade more readily than conventional plastic. Another core problem with biodegradable and compostable plastic is that they are not necessarily more environment friendly when disposed of in landfills.

Although, the bio-based plastic may play a role in moving away from fossil fuels, if it is used for reusable and durable products as the feedstock is actually sustainable but the experts’ recommendations are to concentrate on plastic reduction and reuse, instead of substituting a plastic single-use item for a bio-based, biodegradable, or compostable one. Regulatory efforts from the government need to alter the policy from replacing conventional plastic with bioplastic towards efforts to reduce plastic production, promote reuse, and completely ban on single use plastic regardless of material used. 

The writer is a project engineer at APP. He did BSc Electrical Engineering (Telecom) from the COMSATS University, Lahore Campus and MPhil in Space Science from the University of Panjab, Lahore. He can be contacted at:

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