Concept analysis of bioplastics, bio-based plastics, biodegradable plastics and degradable plastics

The article explains that as long as it contains PE and PP components, it is not considered a degradable plastic.

Bioplastics is not a clearly defined term. Bioplastics are generally considered to include bio-based plastics and biodegradable plastics (including bio-based or petroleum-based).

Bio-based plastics indicate that all or part of the raw materials for plastic production are derived from biomass, and it is uncertain whether they can be degraded during and after use.

Biodegradable plastic indicates that the plastic will degrade under certain conditions during or after use, but it does not mean that the plastic is a source of raw materials.

Not all bio-based plastics are degradable, and biodegradable plastics can also be divided into two categories: bio-based and fossil-based. According to statistics, approximately 41.9% of bio-based plastics produced globally in 2020 were non-biodegradable bioplastics.

Degradable plastics include biodegradable plastics. However, in the current mainstream market context, the term “degradable plastic” has been abused and is misleading and deceptive to the public. In more cases, it is an intentionally vague concept, and it refers more to “semi-degradable” or “pseudodegradation”.

This kind of “degradable plastic” actually decomposes/disintegrates, that is to say, it just becomes broken/pulverized, but the molecules do not change. There are some products on the market that are made of traditional plastics mixed with other easily degradable materials such as starch to reduce their stability, or by adding photosensitizers and other means to make it easier to break down into small fragments. The composition has not changed and is not In line with the meaning of true degradable plastics; some add elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to photodegradable plastics to become so-called photo-biodegradable plastics. In addition, some degradation agents themselves have certain environmental pollution hazards, which is one of the reasons why we should fully advocate fully biodegradable plastics.

However, the degradation conditions of different biodegradable plastics are different. Degradation can only occur when the surrounding environment meets the conditions (such as microorganisms, temperature, humidity, etc.). Different natural environments (especially oceans) Conditions vary greatly, and some biodegradable plastics may have difficulty degrading in the natural environment. Therefore, it does not mean that we can throw away biodegradable plastic products at will.

While bioplastics are often a less harmful alternative to conventional plastics, they are not the ultimate solution to the plastic waste crisis, and global efforts to reduce plastic consumption remain important.

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