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Bioplastics: degradable, biodegradable, compostable? confusable!

by Powershop on

Bioplastics: degradable, biodegradable, compostable? confusable!
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Did you know that degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastics cannot be placed into recycling? Turns out, putting them into the recycling can cause contamination and disrupt the recycling process.

Every conscious decision we make can have an amazing impact on the environment. By working together, these impacts can have lasting effects on the climate and learning how to separate waste is a huge step forward! So let’s go!

Degradable / Oxo-degradable:

Degradable and Oxo-degradable plastics are a combination of plastic and chemicals that help the plastic break down faster. But this doesn’t mean it disappears. Instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic that still stay in the environment.

The term degradable can make consumers feel like they’re making a decision that will have a positive impact on the environment but, unfortunately, the nature of degradable products has no positive environmental benefit. Understanding these limitations is important to reducing our footprint.

Biodegradable:

Biodegradable means that with the help of light and microorganisms, the plant-based material (often cornstarch) is able to break down and disperse into the environment. Amazing!

This isn't without its challenges though, as conditions need to be spot on for these types of plastic to break down. We’re talking about high temperatures, UV light or heat being needed to disperse these.

Compostable:

Compostable plastics, similar to biodegradable plastics, require specific conditions to break down. Before buying compostable products, check to see if they are certified under the Australian Home Composting Standard. This means you can use your at-home composting system, if you have one! The other standard to look out for is the Australian Commercial Composting Standard. Contact your local council to see where the closest commercial composting facility is to you.


What else can we do to help?

Refuse and reuse

Where possible, refuse plastics and bioplastics and instead bring reusable alternatives. Walking down to get sushi for lunch? Bring your own container. The same goes for shopping bags, water bottles and coffee cups. Once you get thinking about where you can refuse and reuse, then you can significantly reduce your footprint.

And hey, a lot of us have a plastic bag filled with plastic bags in the kitchen cupboard - most supermarkets have a front of store bin that accepts single-use plastic bags, letting you recycle them in the best possible way.

In the Powershop office we’re consciously working to reduce, reuse and effectively recycle. It’s a challenge to change our behaviour, but it has a positive impact on the planet. We have everything from ‘borrow bags’ for when staff are heading out to the supermarket, to recycling that's split out in food waste, soft plastics, coffee grounds and standard recycling.

If you want to educate your home or office about the differences between the bioplastics, click here to download our handy poster that we have up in the office.

Small version of the Powershop Bio-plastics poster


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