Beyond Bioplastics began as a small research effort in 2018. Before long, we began to understand the many complexities surrounding compostable and biodegradable plastics – while these materials are advertised as the solution to our waste management challenges, they don’t break down as promised and create more problems than they solve!
The research so far has been alarming – many types of bioplastics, specifically biodegradable plastics, have no guidelines to ensure they break down in a sustainable way. Even worse, some plastics are labeled “biodegradable” or “green”, but are in fact just made of regular plastic. Compostable plastics, on the other hand, have certifications to ensure they break down in industrial composting conditions (not the ocean, the beach, the forest or your home compost bin!). However, there are no municipal composting facilities in most Canadian communities that can accommodate these strict conditions. As a result, they are filtered out and sent to the landfill. If too many bioplastics end up in our recycling or composting process, the entire load sometimes gets sent to the landfill! These challenges have been seen around the world, with countries such as Australia recently introducing bans on biodegradable plastics.
The production of bioplastics leaves a lot of unanswered questions. There are concerns about the amount of land used for bioplastics production. Most compostable and biodegradable plastics are produced as PLA, which is made using corn byproducts. As a result, they rely on resources that may otherwise be useful for human consumption. It is also unclear whether the production of bioplastics emits fewer or greater emissions than conventional plastics. We’re committed to diving further into these research topics to understand the true impact of bioplastics, and understand the barriers of other, more sustainable alternatives.
Ultimately, we want to see the adoption of systems that will reduce the amount of waste in our oceans and in our communities. In reality, this can only be accomplished through the adoption of reusable products. Single-use materials should be used only when necessary, and we should only focus on the development of single-use materials that will break down in a practical and efficient manner. Bioplastics are still single-use, and they have proven to be just as ineffective as conventional plastics. We need to stay focused on solutions that will decrease waste in our marine environments, and bioplastics are not one of them.
Feel free to check out our “resources” section below for some key deliverables created by our team and other organizations! You can stay tuned for more resources and information on bioplastics, as well as alternatives we suggest to minimize your impact on the environment, by following us on social media or subscribing to our newsletter.