With global warming, rising pollution, and a greater awareness for sustainability, you may be looking for more eco-friendly solutions to your daily life. If you are, you probably have come across the buzz words ‘recyclable,’ ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’ a time or two. But be wary - ‘biodegradable’ doesn’t necessarily mean eco-friendly, despite all the hype they get.
It turns out biodegradable and compostable labeling can be misleading. Here’s 5 things to consider when you’re shopping to ensure you’re being a sustainable and eco-friendly as possible.
A TwentyFifty, 100% biodegradable spoon
1. Not all biodegradable items are born equal
A true biodegradable product can be easily returned to the earth. There should be no complicated recycling process, no special facilities, and only simple ingredients, like plants. But some products labeled as biodegradable are not made from plants - they’re made from petrochemical resources, aka lab-made biodegradable plastics. Unlike TwentyFifty utensils that are made only from flour and water and therefore can break down in at-home compost piles, biodegradable plastics do not break down easily and require controlled conditions, like heat, fragmentation and absence of ecotoxicity. Because of this, they most likely need an industrial composting facility to biodegrade, something not accessible to the majority of the country.
For more on this, read our post >>> The Secret Life of Compostable Spoons
Takeaway: Read the fine print on the product’s packaging and make sure you can biodegrade them yourself at home, or in regular soil, without the need for an industrial facility.
2. Most compostable materials are NOT home compostable
Similar to the differences in products listed as biodegradable, there are differences in the methods of composting. Technically, ‘compostable’ products may be compostable, but they most likely require exceptionally high heat, equipment to break them down, and certain amounts of oxygen to begin the biodegradation process.
Takeaway: Look for items listed as ‘home compostable’ as opposed to ‘commercially compostable’.
An example of where some bioplastics end up - littering the world’s beaches and natural landscapes
3. Recycling is not a back up option
Biodegradable plastics and biodegradable products are designed to break down or ‘degrade’ which means they can’t be recycled in our current recycling systems. As a result, if they’re placed in the recycling it can potentially cause the batch of recycling to be discarded. When recycling centers find objects in the sorting stream that do not belong (read not plastic, glass, or paper), they just send the whole lot to the landfill which is more cost effective than manually picking pieces out.
Takeaway: Even if you accidentally pick up the commercially composting variety of biodegradable products and don’t live close to a commercial composting facility, don’t place it in the recycling. Just throw them in the main trash for the landfill.
4. Biodegradable plastics could mean a few different things
The two main types of Biodegradable Plastics are oxo-biodegradable and hydro-biodegradable. In both cases, degradation begins with a chemical process (oxidation and hydrolysis respectively), followed by a biological process. It’s worth noting both types emit CO2 as they degrade - which can be harmful for the environment - but hydro-biodegradable can also emit methane - which is very bad for the environment. Both types are compostable in commercial facilities, but only oxo-biodegradable can be economically recycled.
For more on bioplastics, read our blog >>> Are Compostable Utensils Really Compostable?
Takeaway: Honestly, just avoid bioplastics!
5. Alternatives to biodegradable plastics are more environmentally friendly
There are lots of alternatives out there to look for! For utensils, try www.twentyfiftyfork.com 100% compostable forks and spoons. You can throw them in your home compost (or even in your house plant pots!). When they break down, they even leave helpful nutrients in the soil to allow plants and flowers to shine. There are also great brands such as Bees Wrap and www.gosun.co that make either home compostable or reusable items that produce zero-waste.
Takeaway: Always do your homework and work on selecting quality products with the same sustainability goals as you! Together, we can be the solution to plastic pollution.
For our full line of 100% compostable, biodegradable and zero-waste products, CLICK HERE!
NOTE: 2050 now offers special BULK pricing to cafes, cafeterias, and schools.