People are increasingly adopting greener and more eco-friendly alternatives in their everyday life. The main reason behind this is their heightened awareness. In fact, many companies are coming out with greener replacements for products that we use at a mass scale. There are many types of products that count among eco-friendly products. Some are considered 100% safe, while the value of others is still doubtful. Among these products, biodegradable products occupy a special niche as they have a positive impact on the environment.
What are biodegradable products?
Biodegradable products break down into carbon dioxide, water and bio-material by microorganisms. Companies manufacture biodegradable products in the same way as conventional/ordinary plastic and not from plants always, as the word bio might suggest. Conventional plastic does not break down in landfills and contributes to a lot to atmospheric pollution. Biodegradable plastic or products have the added feature of being made from raw material which are decomposable, thus reducing the amount of material in landfills. Some of these products can be used as compost and thus recycled. Let’s see how, compared to conventional plastic products, biodegradable products are good for the environment.
Why are Styrofoam and plastic products harmful
Plastic is an extremely versatile material, and almost anything can be made out of it. This has led to there being a huge amount of plastic in the world today. We cannot reduce these numbers, except by changing the way the plastic manufacturing process. Whatever plastic has been manufactured till now, will stay in that form for thousands of years. It would leach chemicals into soil and water. Similarly, Styrofoam too does not decompose and causes harm to the environment.
Why not use paper disposables and other paper products
Paper products consist of virgin wood fibers, which lead to the depletion of forests, and destruction of ecosystems. These take hundreds of years to develop. In place of paper, products we should use products consisting of bagasse. It is a renewable resource and is a by-product during the production of sugar cane. Sugarcane is one of the most common crops, so there will never be a dearth of bagasse.
How are biodegradable products better
Biodegradable plastics and products which are plant-based. They are good for the environment, as they decompose easily and mix with earth/organic material, whenever we recycle organic waste. Most of these products allow multiple use, which makes them cost-effective. Companies produce them in controlled environments to maintain quality. Some products, which consist of starch, might however affect the water and soil quality. But still, these products are better for the planet in comparison to the conventional non-biodegradable products.
How long does it take for the products to biodegrade
Biocompostable or Biodegradable products have to enter the composting system to degrade. This means you have to bury them with your other compostable waste in the soil, and then it will decompose in a few months time. There are two factors which influence the time of decomposition. One is where it is decomposed – at a home composting unit, depending on how frequently you turn the soil, the time is much more than 6 months. At a commercial compost facility, it takes less than 180 days to decompose.
The second factor which influences the rate of decomposition, is the thickness of a product. Thinner products take less time to decompose.
Bagasse (sugarcane by-product) and corn/PLA (derived from corn starch), are mostly used to manufacture biodegradable products. Bagasse products are freezer and microwave safe whereas PLA works well at cool temperatures.
What is the life of these products
Bagasse and PLA based products have a shelf life of approximately 2 years. They have to be stored in a cool and dry place, and PLA products do not last long at temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why are bagasse and corn based biodegradable products so eco friendly
Bagasse products derive from waste sugarcane fiber, during the process of extracting sugarcane juice. They are eco-friendly, as they use a waste product, which would otherwise be useless. People usually either incinerate it or throw it into landfills.
As for corn products, the corn from yellow dent fields are used, which is an extremely cheap and abundant resource.
Some industries which use biodegradable products
Food packaging, agriculture, medical are some of the industries in which these products are popular. In food packaging, some companies use biodegradable packaging which one can compost along with a product that’s not in good condition. In agriculture, people use biodegradable plastics as seed films and mulch. And in the medical industry, micro devices which contain medicine, and absorbable sutures use biodegradable plastics/products.
Biodegradable products are useful and can replace conventional plastic. Their capacity to decompose and be recycled and reused is beneficial for the environment. But we have to also change the use and throw culture and use recycled products for the benefit of the environment.
Some unique biodegradable products
Biodegradable alternatives are certainly a good solution for curbing the exponential growth of non-biodegradable waste in our society. Here are five very unusual but possible biodegradable products that are extremely innovative and impressive.
1. Bicycle built 100% out of wood
Marco Facciola, 16 years of age, has built an eco-friendly and a 100% biodegradable bike made out of wood. Each and every part and detail of this ‘green’ bicycle – from the chains to the gears – has been crafted out of wood. This impressive innovation was a part of Marco’s non-academic project for his IB certification.
2. Vernacare bedpans
Now cleaning and sterilizing bedpans would not be one of the chores that a nurse would have to perform as the Vernacare bedpan is a 100% biodegradable and hence, can be disposed straightaway! Vernacare is a Canada-based company that produced pulp paper products that look like egg cartons and are then coated with a natural resin to make the products leak-proof. The bedpans can be disposed off in a ‘macerator’ which is a machine that churns the bedpans into tiny fragments and then disposed the human excrement along with the churned paper to the sewage system.
The bedpans not only save time but also spare the nurses from doing the necessary cleaning of bedpans. Apart from that, the odor in the patient units is reduced and so is the fear of infection due to bedpans. Since the macerator works silently, it does not lead to any discomfort amongst the patients. The usage of these biodegradable bedpans will also save the landfills of the voluminous quantity of waste plastic bedpans.
3. Biodegradable camera by ‘Sony’
The Sony ODO digital camera is a battery-free one that has been designed by Sony. This innovative camera makes use of kinetic energy for powering the device by simply giving the rounded head of the camera a twist. The movement of the camera head would transform the kinetic energy into electricity. This camera consists of biodegradable vegetable resins and is beneficial for the environment.
4. Eco-friendly running shoes by ‘Brooks Sports’
The ‘Green Silence’ is a great pair of eco-friendly shoes from Brooks Sports that maintains both performance and comfort apart from being ‘green’ in nature. Normally, the soles of regular running shoes take more than a thousand years to decompose, but the soles of these shoes would take only 25 years to do so as the soles are coated with a natural additive that attracts the decomposing microbes to act upon the shoe. A lot of recycled items go into the making of these running shoes such as old water bottles, recycled CDs and old laces. The glues and dyes are all water-soluble and non-toxic.
5. Biodegradable pens from ‘Grassroots’
These amazing pens from Grassroots are the first biodegradable variety in the world and have been crafted out of corn! The pen looks pretty much like all regular pens, except for the fact that it is totally biodegradable. It takes around eight months for these pens to decompose. The ink refills of these pens are available in two colors – black and blue. If you feel that you are through with your pen, then all you have to do is pull our the tungsten barrel and place it in the soil.