Plastic products labeled as ‘biodegradable’ may not decompose any more quickly than standard plastics, according to new information. A new study by Susan Selke and Rafael Auras in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology reveals that plastics claiming to be biodegradable have not in fact broken down at an accelerated rate. With these “more environmental” plastics now proven faulty, the only viable solution to divert plastic from landfills is to make a conscious effort to globally cut back, repurpose and recycle.
The issue with plastic waste is a global problem, with products from containers to plastic bags clogging garbage dumps and landfills the world over. Some countries and cities have enacted policies like banning plastic bags in retail shops to help alleviate the waste, but plastic products remain a contender in consumption.
In the past few years, products claiming to be made from “biodegradable plastic” began appearing on the market. Researchers Selke, Auras and their colleagues focused on this special plastic, which manufacturers claim is biodegradable due to the addition of five different compounds that were meant to quicken the breakdown process.
Through their studies, the team simulated plastics buried in landfills, creating test conditions that monitored plastic break-down and biodegradability over three years. The plastics were covered in soil and compost to replicate typical landfill conditions. When the plastics were unearthed, the team found that the alleged biodegradable plastics exhibited no enhanced qualities whatsoever. This failure is a message to consumers that there is no shortcut to making plastic products sustainable, and the only effective way to eliminate plastic waste is to cut down on its use.
Via Eureka Alert