Plastics being the cheapest material have been utilized for innumerable purposes till date, but its relentless use has raised serious environmental concerns. Increased use of plastic products has seen a robust growth of plastic industry using state-of-the-art technology, but few measures have been adopted to reduce the toxic effects of plastics. Plastics are non-degradable and their disposal has resulted in extensive landfill growth posing serious threats to the environment. Over dependence on plastics has raised the dependence on oil, the non-renewable energy resource. A report from Energy Information Administration reveals that plastic production demands 331 million barrels of oil annually accounting 4.6% of US oil consumption. Therefore, producing bio-degradable plastics is the need of the hour to reduce oil dependence and protect the environment from toxic wastes.
Production of bio- degradable plastics from corn, hemp and chicken feathers is being encouraged now-a-days to negate the environmental pollution from non-degradable plastics. This production has been initiated long time back, but is yet to receive industrial recognition.
Bio-degradable plastic bottles:
The use of bottled mineral waters has risen steeply past few decades resulting in piling of tons of non-degradable plastic garbage. Enso Bottles in collaboration with Resilux America has planned to introduce environmental friendly bio-degradable plastic bottles to reduce âPlastic Bottle Pollutionâ of the country. These brown colored plastic bottles are specially formulated to provide a healthy solution to the packaging industry helping the environmental friendly customers with a better alternative. These bottles differ from the oxo-biodegradable and PLA bottles as they can be composted in landfills through microbial action producing humus and bio-gases. They do not require special conditions for composting and leave no toxic wastes.
Bio-degradable plastic bags:
Seldom do we spend a day without using a plastic bag either to carry different items or to store food and dispose them carelessly. Alarming reports regarding the toxicity of the plastic bags have hit our minds several times, but that failed to reduce the usage of these potentially harmful things. The bio-degradable plastic bags have many things to offer. Made from corn-based plastic, these bags are 100% bio-degradable and help in better food storage. These are not air tight like the conventional plastic bags and allow free passage of heat and moisture. Fruits and vegetables last long when stored in these bags. Moreover, bio-degradable bags are devoid of GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) and are compostable.
Bio-degradable plastic cups:
Restaurants and eateries are being encouraged to use bio- degradable plastic cups to reduce the usage of non-degradable plastics. These specially designed cups are made from corn based plastic known as PLA (Poly Lactic Acid), which is 100% degradable under specified conditions. The used cups can be dumped in municipal or industrial composting facilities where they will be composted in 50 days. This will prevent dumping of plastic garbage in open lands.
Excessive usage of petroleum based plastics has disturbed the ecological balance and it is high time that we set things right. The half life of these plastics is about one thousand years, and this has led to the growth of landfills causing environmental concerns. Compostable bioplastics enrich the organic and nutrient content of the soil. The liberated methane gas from composting can be harnessed to serve multiple purposes. Life span of the landfills increases with the increase in organic content of the soil. Production of bio-degradable plastics requires lesser energy consumption. Bio-degradable plastics can be used as a renewable resource of energy reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.
There are several factors impeding the mass usage of bio-degradable plastics. Cost of bio-degradable plastic products is 2-4 times higher than the conventional ones. Lack of environmental awareness among the commoners is another factor for lesser usage of bio-degradable plastics. Proper community infrastructure is essential for dumping, sorting and processing of bio-degradable plastics. Achieving 100% bio-degradability is another hindering factor for this industry. Extensive farming of the organic sources like corn and Soya is essential for the large scale production of bio-degradable plastics. It might involve over usage of insecticides and pesticides contributing to environmental pollution. Most of the corn used for bioplastic production comes from the genetically modified plants. The risk of cross contamination of normal food producing plants with the genetically modified plants prevails.
With a view to âgo greenâ, the developing nations have come forward in initiating large scale usage of bio-degradable plastics and restricting the use of non-degradable plastics in many cases. Light weight and durable bio-degradable plastics are being used for car doors, baby capsules and boat hulls. Appreciable government funding has encouraged the production of bio-degradable plastics to manufacture domestic and industrial products. This is bound to have a global impact encouraging other countries to follow suit.