As a general rule, we are all aware of the devastating effect plastic can have on the environment. But honestly there are just some times when plastic is the best option. Since we’re not likely to get rid of plastic anytime soon, perhaps, a better strategy might be to alter plastic so it has a less toxic effect. The answer may lie in biodegradable plastic.
The thing that makes plastic so desirable for many uses is also what makes it a problem. Plastic is extremely durable and will degrade very slowly. In fact, plastic which finds its way to landfill sites may still be there practically unchanged, hundreds of years from now. If you consider the huge number of throw-away products that are made out of plastic, you can understand why this is such an environmental disaster.
Although efforts have been made to recycle plastics, it is a complicated venture made even more complex and expensive by the many different kinds and grades of plastics that may be used even in a single product. Recycling helps but it really barely makes a dent in the problem.
The only realistic solution is to use plastic that can be disposed of in landfills with the expectation that it will decompose in months, not hundreds of years. This is what is promised by biodegradable plastic in ontario.
There are two kinds of biodegradable plastics; those which will decompose in landfills and those which are compostable. This makes them ideal for food service items, like plastic tableware, which are disposed of after a single use. It also makes good sense to use them as the film which covers fruits and vegetables, as these are frequently discarded along with fruit that is going bad.
Perhaps one of the best consumer uses is in the large collection bags which are used to gather grass trimmings, leaves and other yard debris before it is taken to the landfill. Using bags made of biodegradable plastic allows this yard waste to quickly break down and take up less space. Put this waste in a traditional plastic bag and it may never completely break down.
A side benefit which occurs in landfills is the production of methane, a greenhouse gas. Left to escape, it is not good for the environment, but when captured, which landfills are doing increasingly, this methane can be used as a source of energy.
Although, biodegradable plastic is certainly better environmentally than traditional plastics, it is not without problems, so it’s wise to use even this type of plastic sparingly.
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