Standard disposable bags are increasingly being replaced with biodegradable ones. We are convinced that they are safe for the planet. But it’s not.
There are two types of polymers on the world market, which, according to manufacturers, have a higher rate of degradation in the environment: oxo-degradable and biodegradable. They are increasingly used to making disposable bags, supposedly taking care of nature.
They are traditional polymers (for example, low-density polyethylene) in which additives are introduced (for example, d2w containing transition metal salts) that accelerate the oxidation and decomposition of the material under the influence of ultraviolet and/or heat and oxygen. The oxidation process leads to accelerated disintegration of the material into fragments.
Under the influence of ultraviolet light, the package simply breaks up into fragments faster. This is where its “biodegradability” ends.
In theory, polymer fragmentation should lead to a faster biodegradation process that produces carbon dioxide and water. However, in practice, this depends on many factors: the size of the polymer particles, the quality of the chemical additives that were used for fragmentation, and the environmental conditions in which the biodegradation process is expected.
In nature, oxo-degradable polymers, having broken down into fragments, require much more time for natural biodegradation. At the same time, the environment is polluted with microplastics, which, due to their size, are able to migrate through the food chain and end up on our plates.
Decompose under composting conditions into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass and do not lead to the formation of toxic waste. They are made, as a rule, from corn and potato starches, soy, and cellulose.
The process of decomposition of such a polymer under compost conditions is 180 days.
Biodegradable garbage bags are valuable and can only be used in areas where there is a public collection system for collecting organic waste for composting or individual home composting systems are installed. In other cases, the use of such polymers is irrational: in fact, food-grade crops are produced to be made into disposable items, and then buried in landfills or burned.
Growing huge amounts of crops to turn them into disposable items is completely irrational use of the planet’s resources. At the same time, there is practically no system for the separate collection of organic waste from the population and the required level of industrial processing in most countries (aerobic and anaerobic digestion). Thus, getting into landfills and landfills, biodegradable polymers become a source of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
In the production of paper bags, air and water are polluted many times more than in the production of plastic ones. As a transitional measure, single-use plastic bags can be replaced with single-use paper bags, but only if a few conditions are met:
- Ensure openness of information on the origin of raw materials;
- Provide the buyer with the opportunity to hand over packages for processing;
- To prevent the sale and distribution of paper bags made from wood from intact forest areas and forests of high conservation value.
Any disposable packaging is not environmentally friendly and harms nature.
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