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The Disadvantages of Biodegradable Plastic

by s3233222 on September 14th, 2011
  • Biodegradable plastic was developed to combat the growing pollution problem associated with other types of plastics. Biodegradable plastics are made from organic sources such as cornstarch. They break down after a period of time and will eventually return to compost. Although there are several advantages to using biodegradable plastics over other plastics, there are also many disadvantages.

Toxicity

  • Biodegradable plastic is not meant to be recycled with other types of plastics. Non-biodegradable plastic can be contaminated if it is mixed with biodegradable plastic. If biodegradable plastic is not properly disposed of, it will add to already increasing landfill waste. This improper disposal leads to an inefficient breakdown of the plastic, which can release toxins into the environment. These toxins may include methane and carbon dioxide, both of which contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Composting Availability

  • The most efficient way to dispose of biodegradable plastic is by composting. Home composting is still a rarity in most neighborhoods, especially in urban areas. The average length of time for a fully biodegradable plastic to decompose in home composts is roughly two years. Industrial composts can be difficult to access due to their limited facilities throughout the country. These professional composting locations are the only source of a sufficient combination of bacteria, humidity and the ability to provide constant heat of 140 degrees for 10 days in a row to break down polyethylene biodegradable plastics within 90 days.

Engineering

  • Biodegradable plastics are made from organic sources, and those organic sources must be farmed. Corn and soybeans are popular plants used in the production of biodegradable plastic. These crops require high doses of toxic pesticides that contribute to pollution and may leech into the soil. Many of the farmed resources that are used to make biodegradable plastics come from genetically modified plants. There is a risk for cross-contamination associated with farming genetically modified plants for non-food purposes. It is still debatable whether the use of our natural resources to create biodegradable plastics is worth the cost.

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