Although we all know very well that things like single-use-plastic and styrofoam packaging are very damaging to the environment, we mostly tend to see biodegradable or ‘bio-based’ alternatives as environmentally friendly.
But unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that, as biodegradables can pose some environmental issues too.
Here are five things to consider.
1. Impact of Production
Many biodegradable items like packaging and cutlery are created as ‘disposable’ alternatives to single-use-plastics. This means that — just like with single-use-plastics — resources, energy, and emissions are required to produce and transport each of these items, only for each item to be used just once, and then thrown away.
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay
In some cases, fertilizers and pesticides used while growing crops to produce biodegradable ‘bio-plastics’ can also cause environmental damage.
2. Marketing Tricks and Labelling Issues
Although many products are marketed as ‘biodegradable,’ or ‘compostable,’ this can sometimes be misleading.
Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay
While these kinds of labels might have you believe that your biodegradable soda bottle or takeout container will just disintegrate back into the earth no matter where you drop it, it is often the case that products labeled as biodegradable will only break down sufficiently when treated in industrial composting plants — something which is not always possible.
3. Improper Disposal
Because of understandable confusion around inconsistent label terminology, biodegradable items are often disposed of incorrectly.
Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash
This can lead to similar kinds of pollution caused by regular plastic products, and can also interfere with the recycling process of regular plastics.
4. The Methane Issue
If they end up in a landfill, most biodegradables release CO2 and methane gas as they decompose, which is certainly not good news if we want to keep the temperature of the planet down!
5. Perpetuating the Single-Use Culture
Because biodegradable products are often used as a direct replacement for single-use-plastics and other disposables, in many cases they are encouraging a continuation of this disposable culture.
The EU, Zero Waste Europe, and Greenpeace all agree that to reduce plastic pollution, we should prioritize reusable solutions over ‘eco-friendly’ single-use alternatives wherever possible.
With Ozarka’s total solution for reusable takeout containers, that is exactly what we are working to achieve!