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8 Reasons Why BioPlastic is Worse than Regular Plastic

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I thought this EcoGeek article was really interesting.

 

  1. Why make stuff out of it when you can eat it? There are lots of hungry people in the world, and it seems a little odd to be making disposable cups out of the stuff when it could be being eaten. Though bioplastic definitely isn't causing an increase in the price of food, it's not impossible to imagine it.
  2. You can't always recycle it. Because bioplastics come in dozens of varieties, there's no way to make sure you're getting the right chemicals in the recycling vat. And, in general, the solution is compost instead of re-entering the supply stream.
  3. It could make plastic recycling impossible. Even worse than not being recyclable itself, if it creeps into the recycling stream (which is likely, since it doesn't look any different) it can introduce new chemicals that make the final recycled product weaker or even unusable.
  4. Compostable doesn't mean compostable. If you toss a bioplastic fork into your compost and assume it'll be dirt in a few months, you'll be sorely disappointed. While bioplastic is (sometimes) compostable, it requires high intensity, high heat commercial composting.
  5. It's never made from organic corn, and generally made from genetically modified corn. And while EcoGeek doesn't have a problem with genetic modification, many other environmentally aware people do.
  6. It makes low quality plastic. Instead of solving the problem of the disposable society, bio-plastics generally can only be made into disposable items. They're having problems even making transparent bioplastic that's strong enough to hold water for a few months.
  7. It's good marketing, but bad honesty. It's very easy to have bioplastic cups or bags or forks. But it's very difficult to figure out what that means. Because there are so many different types of bioplastic, you never really know what you're getting into. Maybe it's compostable, maybe it's not. Maybe it's recyclable, maybe it's not.
  8. What's wrong with storing carbon in landfills? Plastic has gotten a bad rap, for poisoning babies and strangling sea lions. But if it is used properly and ends up in the landfill, I don't see what the problem is. Creating durable products with petroleum is certainly much preferred to burning it. And while plastics factories are big polluters, bio plastics factories though better, don't get us clean either.
post #2 of 15

I can't say I necessarily agree with #8 100%, but #3 is the one that really was the most, "duh...I why hadn't I thought about that" of all of them


It could make plastic recycling impossible. Even worse than not being recyclable itself, if it creeps into the recycling stream (which is likely, since it doesn't look any different) it can introduce new chemicals that make the final recycled product weaker or even unusable.

 

Great list.

post #3 of 15

i have to agree with deej on this one (about #8)

though for all the others...i want to research that myself.

from what i've heard/read it does biodegrade under "normal" circumstances...true longer than say an apple would, but that you can compost it.

hmmmm...more research needed before deciding if eco-plastics are really a bad thing.

post #4 of 15

I don't really have a problem with #5 since the corn isn't being grown to be consumed by humans or animals.

post #5 of 15

It's REDUCE, REUSE, and then recycle.

 

How much plastic goes into disposable knives, forks, and cups? Or polystyrene boxes in restaurants? Or the obvious one - bottled water?

 

I'd rather society dealt with that than just come up with another way to generate vast heaps of waste.

post #6 of 15

Wonderfullly put! It's too bad we've become a disposable nation...world for that matter.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by kiwi:

It's REDUCE, REUSE, and then recycle.

 

How much plastic goes into disposable knives, forks, and cups? Or polystyrene boxes in restaurants? Or the obvious one - bottled water?

 

I'd rather society dealt with that than just come up with another way to generate vast heaps of waste.

 

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwi:

It's REDUCE, REUSE, and then recycle.

 

How much plastic goes into disposable knives, forks, and cups? Or polystyrene boxes in restaurants? Or the obvious one - bottled water?

 

I'd rather society dealt with that than just come up with another way to generate vast heaps of waste.

 

Yeah, I definitely agree.  It seems kind of ridiculous to keep looking for new types of things we can throw away.

 

On the topic of cutlery, Alejandro posted this in the forums yesterday about a "picnic tax" in France.  It of course leaves the option open to use disposable cutlery, etc. but it sure does make it less appealing on your wallet.

post #8 of 15

Speaking of Pic-Nics, check these out:

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by stins:
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwi:

It's REDUCE, REUSE, and then recycle.

 

How much plastic goes into disposable knives, forks, and cups? Or polystyrene boxes in restaurants? Or the obvious one - bottled water?

 

I'd rather society dealt with that than just come up with another way to generate vast heaps of waste.

 

Yeah, I definitely agree.  It seems kind of ridiculous to keep looking for new types of things we can throw away.

 

On the topic of cutlery, Alejandro posted this in the forums yesterday about a "picnic tax" in France.  It of course leaves the option open to use disposable cutlery, etc. but it sure does make it less appealing on your wallet.

 

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by organicgal007:

Speaking of Pic-Nics, check these out:

 

To-Go Ware is great.  I have one set which I use at work quite a bit, actually.

post #10 of 15

I'd like to encourage all of you to read Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman and then you'd have many good reasons why bio platics are MUCH better than petroluem based plastics.

 

The biggest problem with plastic is that it is made from oil. The second is that it is wasteful and encourages a disposable society regardless of what kind.

 

My first choice is no plastic, but my second is bio plastic for now.

post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by happy2bgreen:

I'd like to encourage all of you to read Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman and then you'd have many good reasons why bio platics are MUCH better than petroluem based plastics.

 

The biggest problem with plastic is that it is made from oil. The second is that it is wasteful and encourages a disposable society regardless of what kind.

 

My first choice is no plastic, but my second is bio plastic for now. 

 

850,000,000 people are hungry, so bio-plastic, made of food, is really not an ethical option.  The same can be said of bio-fuel.  The part of oil that is made into plastic isn't potential fuel, it is an otherwise useless by-product that used to be burned off.   Also, if bio-plastic is burried in a land fill, it creates large amounts of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas.  For more about why oxo-biodegradable plastic is a better choice for the environement, read:

 

 

http://biogreenproducts.biz/whyoxo.html

 

post #12 of 15

I don't agree with bio-plastics being used to make disposable items because I also agree that we need to pull away from those items that need not be disposable ever (cutlery, bags, bottles etc).  I do however believe that the use of bio-plastics already being used for sustainably made products such as cell phone cases and carpets is a very good thing indeed. 

 

Bio-plastics are far from perfect...they still need massive amounts of fossil fuels to produce them and then there are concerns of the production of materials needed (soil erosion, deforestation).  The fact is though that eventually we will either run out of fossil fuels and non-sustainable materials or we will die.  The latter will come first if we do not continue with the progression of sustainable products. 

 

So whether bio-plastics are better or not is not even a question to me....of course they are because they do not need petroleum to create them.  I'm sure with time we will figure out all the bumps mentioned by eco-geek and work them out.  I mean look how far we've come with petroleum based plastics!

 

As for the Bio-degradation of bio-plastics.  Biodegradable is simply a standard...in the US to be considered compo-stable a material only has to degrade by 60% within 180 days and this is in a commerical regulated composting unit that has the perfect conditions to bio-degrade a specific material.  So whether or not bio-plastics would actually bio-degrade in your backyard composter or even in a local landfill is questionable but, like before the production and efficiency of the product have only but to improve with time.

post #13 of 15

Just  a few decades ago, disposable anything wasn't an option and people used reusable options. I was watching an old Greek movie from the 60s or 70s recently and I noticed the "housekeeper" went shopping with her really cool mesh shopping bag, and milk came in glass bottles that they returned to the store. Why can't we go back to that? It wasn't that long ago...

 

Banning the most offensive disposable items would solve the problem I think. Replacing something bad with something else until we know better is just a vicious circle.


Edited by eris - Sun, 04 Jan 2009 03:57:47 GMT
post #14 of 15

I just have to comment on

 

"850,000,000 people are hungry, so bio-plastic, made of food, is really not an ethical option"

 

and point out that most of the corn and soybeans grown in the midwest are not used to feed people (and not an edible substance as grown)--maybe indirectly by feeding livestock, but that is an extremely inefficent use of the land, food and energy that it should also be considered unethical given this number of starving people, or it could be used as filler food adding empty calories and chemicals to our junk food, but not as real nutrition to starving people. I'm also 99% sure that any surplus would not  be used to feed the hungry anyway. So that isn't a simple argument. There are a lot of other things in our society that need to be changed before arguing against bio-plastics purely on a hungry people ethical issue.

post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

Yeah I had the same thought that this argument presumes that the materials going into making bioplastics would otherwise have gone to feeding people, which is not necessarily the case.  Plus as with biofuels, some bioplastics are made from non-food materials (i.e. not corn).

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