Last year, Greenpeace Nederland launched a contest for the “most useless packaging” (article in Dutch). I love it!!! It forces, in a funny way, companies to look better at their packaging. The winner is a paprika, single packed, with a “bio-packaging” which couldn’t be recycled…
Even if you can recycle it (such as paper), packaging is usually not ecological. Don’t forget the amount of energy and water needed to produce (or recycle) the packaging and bring it to the final user! (That’s why Recycle comes after Refuse in the “5R of zero waste”).
The only exception could be the use of packaging to avoid food spillage. For example, it seems that cucumber conserve much longer if wrapped in plastic… however (sorry, for being critical…) this probably applies for vegetables who needs to travel for a while. If you get vegetable which are very fresh from the farmer close to your city, it will probably not get bad before you eat it.
So, what is bioplastic?
Bioplastic are packaging which are BIOBASED, or (OR not AND!!!) BIODEGRADABLE.
Biobased: “The term ‘biobased’ means that the material or product is (partly) derived from biomass (plants). Biomass used for bioplastics stems from e.g. corn, sugarcane, or cellulose.» (EB).
So, it can still contain plastic!
Biodegradable: “Biodegradation is a chemical process during which microorganisms that are available in the environment convert materials into natural substances such as water, car bon dioxide, and compost (artificial additives are not needed). The process of biodegradation depends on the surrounding environmental conditions (e.g. location or temperature), on the material and on the application.”(EB)
So, yes, you read it well…you can have “biodegradable” bioplastics which can only be degraded in special conditions (so if they are not degraded in dedicated industrial conditions, they will have the same environmental impact as “conventional plastic”!).
What to look for?
ORIGIN: Fossil resource (source of what we call plastic), versus renewable resources (biobased plastic).
WASTE: environmental pollution versus biodegradable material.
How do I know it is BIOBASED?
Based on the percentage of renewable raw materials (% Bio-based), the product can be certified as one-star-bio-based, two-star-bio-based, three-star-bio-based or four-star-bio-based.
How do I know it is BIODEGRADABLE?
There are not (yet) international labels. The OK Compost label is used in Belgium (below, Left) and the “Seeding” label (Below, right) is used in Europe. At the end of this document, there is a lot of national and international certifications for composting.
OK compost or “Seeding”: it means that it can be composted in the INDUSTRIAL green-waste (Belgium: the one they pick up at your door or you bring to the container park), BUT NOT in your own compost!!!!
To be degraded, it needs a certain temperature for a certain amount of time.
OK Compost Home: If you want to compost in your own compost, you need the look for the specific label: “OK Compost Home”.
So what do i do with my bioplastic?
I hope this helps you to understand bioplastic and to sort them appropriately 😉