Recycling is still the emphasis while using any plastics. Why would it not be? Let’s understand 3 types of plastics that have either bio or degradable in their names:
- Oxy-degradable: these resins will break down on exposure to oxygen over the long-term. Useful for short-term applications for containers or films, but can cause serious problems in the recycling industry if they get integrated into the plastics that are going back into the resin production cycle.
- Bio-degradable: these resins break down organically, not necessarily from exposure to air, but that does help promote the degradation. Again, this resin is useful for short term applications for containers or films, but can cause serious problems in the recycling industry if they get integrated into the plastics that are going back into the resin production cycle.
- Bioresins – these resins use organic or plant material to produce the polymers, instead of fossil-fuel sources. They will not degrade, just as fossil fuel based resins won’t, but they replicate several of the properties of fossil fuel resins of strength and durability. And they are recyclable. Another important aspect is the reduction in Carbon Footprint while producing this resin. Just like recycled HDPE uses less energy to produce the product (see https://envisionplastics.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/what-takes-less-energy-to-produce-the-more-times-you-reuse-it/), a bioresin starts off with a lower carbon foot print than a virgin fossil-fuel based resin. Also bioresins are better than carbon neutral because the plant material (sugarcane, corn, sugarbeets, etc.) actually “sequesters” CO2 and gives off Oxygen in the process of photosynthesis. While this is an exciting new area of using renewable feedstocks to produce a plastic resin, the total impact of producing a bioresin has yet to be determined. What is the environmental impact of water and fertilizer usage on a huge commercial-scale? What will be the impact on food supply and food prices? What will be the land use impact of dedicating more and more land for production of renewable energy and energy by-products, such as plastics? These are issues that will need to be identified and addressed in order for a comprehensive comparison to fossil-fuel based plastic resins to be accurate.
In our zeal to find other sources for our resins, the distinction between the different kinds of bio and degradable resins needs to be clear, so that the consumer knows the difference and disposes of the plastic products to the right stream.
Bioresins are welcome in the recycling stream, degradables are not.
We welcome any other topics you wish to see or your comments on our posts.
Need more information? Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh will be happy to discuss your comments or concerns in greater depth. Contact her at 336/342-4749 Ext 225.