‘Biodegradable’ bags are supposed to be Eco-friendly, yet some of these bags can still carry produce even though they have been exposed to the natural environment for three years. Posing the question, how Eco-friendly are these ‘biodegradable’ plastic bags?
The research was done on a conventional and biodegradable bag. Both were tested over a long period of time to the sea, air, and earth. According to the research, none of the bags fully decomposed.
Researchers from the University of Plymouth’s International Marine Litter Research Unit said the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, raised the question of whether biodegradable formulations can be relied on.
One of the researches in the study was amazed that any of the bags were still able to hold a load of shopping. He went on by saying that when you see a label biodegradable, you would automatically assume it would degrade quicker than a conventional bag. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The research team says some of these products are marketed that they can be recycled back into nature much quicker than conventional plastic or stating that they are plant-based alternatives to plastic.
The results showed they could not be relied on as they didn’t show any substantial deterioration over the three-year period in all the environmental conditions.
Approximately half the plastic shopping bags from supermarkets are discarded after one use, and the rest end up as litter, yet supermarkets are still producing thousands of tonnes of plastic bags, and as we know, it has a significant impact on the environment.
Awareness of plastic led to a growth in biodegradable and compostable bags, which is now being questioned, how reliable are they.
The company Vegware, which produced the compostable bag that was used in the research, stated that no material is magic and could only be recycled in its correct facility.
The research has now raised several questions about what you might expect when you see something labeled as ‘biodegradable’, as the label is confusing, as you might think you are doing the right thing by placing biodegradable bags in the recycling bins when these bags can actually interfere with the recycling process.
It’s imperative to understand the differences between terms like biodegradable, compostable, and (oxo)-degradable. Compostable materials can compost with these essential conditions – oxygen, moisture, microbes, warmth and time.
Biodegradable – means capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms and thereby avoiding pollution.
Compostable – means a product is capable of disintegrating into natural elements in a compost environment, leaving no toxicity in the soil.
OXO-biodegradation – is degradation resulting from oxidative and cell-mediated phenomena, either simultaneously or successively.
It would seem that a bag that can and is reused many times presents a better alternative to degradability, according to the study.