Companies in the food and beverage sector are starting to promote and offer degradable bio-based plastics in order to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.
The term “bio-plastics” is used for plastics which are biodegradable and made from non-edible vegetable oil. The catch here is that plastics made from oil can be biodegradable whereas some plant-based bio-plastics are not. So the term bio-plastics can refer either to the raw material or to its biodegradability.
Admittedly, this poses problems for the bio-based plastics industry, however it can still be a possible solution to problems of biodegradability and carbon footprint (wouldn’t it be nice if bio-based plastics were truly the way companies claim they are?!). But consumption of bio-based plastics is not a blueprint for sustainability and environmental friendliness. Bio-based plastics are an upcoming technology and a material in-the-making and research into the environmental feasibility of bio-based plastics has to be intensified in the future.
It is expected that the next generation of innovators shall solve a number of the challenges we face today, and we can be sure that having more knowledge about bio-based plastics will bring more certainty about their impacts. Experience has taught us that not every new technology makes a positive change. Therefore, as we wait for the inventers to invent, we can take a step ahead by changing our behaviour as consumers.
We should reuse shopping bags and bottled water, single-serve packaging, straws and other ‘disposable’ plastics and also seek out alternatives to the plastic items that we rely upon in our day-to-day routine.
Check out the video my classmates from Technical University of Munich and I put together on this topic: