Ecological packaging vs Plastic
There is a lot of debates about plastic and its negative effect on our planet. How can we make our planet a better place to live?
British Plastic Federation claims that plastic is not that harmful to environment if it has been properly recycled. Plastic is lighter than other packaging and also strong, which means that fewer vehicles are needed to transfer plastic products as a result of which lower amount of fuel is used. This contributes to lower gas emission.
We should however highlight the fact that we have too much plastic right now. Plastic is almost everywhere - it is the most common waste entering the sea! Plastic is made from oil which is not an indefinite resource, the extraction of which has a significant impact on what is happening in the world right know. It can also be very harmful to animals.
How long does it take for plastic to biodegrade?
Research shows that plastic can take from 450 to even 1000 years to biodegrade. If we have used a plastic bag only once and threw it away, imagine when all of the plastic bags that we have used in our life will disappear? It is also important to notice that plastic does not biodegrade like other products. Although research shows that some organism can break down some type of plastic into smaller and smaller pieces, number 5 plastic-polypropynen will not change its form for centuries. Interestingly, we breath on average 50,000 of microplastic a year and consume a similar amount.
We therefore need to find better, healthier alternatives which should be: biodegradable, sustainable (compostable) and renewable.
- Biodegradable means that it will be eaten by bacteria or another living organism. This process is affected by temperature, humidity, presence of bacteria and level of oxygen. This process is difficult to control and so it might be difficult to determine how long it may take.
- Compostable means that a product will break down in the soil. This process also helps to fertilize the soil. The composting process also needs the right temperature. Many compostable products composte in commercial facilities which provide the best conditions ensuring the whole process runs smoothly (do not therefore leave compostable packaging in the park as it will not decomposte without the right conditions.) Such commercial facility must be certified and the whole process takes about 12 weeks to complete.
- Renewable means that the product will not be destroyed after use but will be renewed and used again.
Plant based packaging - Alternative to plastic
Packaging made from paper pulp is regarded by many as one of the most eco-friendly materials currently available as it is produced from pre-consumer waste. Paper pulp food packaging, which we also use for our main meals, is made from off cuts of paper used for drink cups, cartons and other paper products which means that it is renewable. Water which is used in the process is also fully recycled. Statistical research shows that forests which provide the pulp are growing, which is a good sign and shows that it is not harmful to environment. Inside layer of such packaging is made from plastic (PET). It is however a very small amount of plastic (generally less than 2% of the tray’s size) and such plastic is also biodegradable and so the whole packaging can be recycled after use.
What about bio plastic?
Bio plastic is another great alternative as it is made from polymers manufactured from plants. Although it looks like plastic, it is made from renewable materials and it will decompose in commercial facilities. It is therefore a very good alternative to plastic.
Use of sustainable packaging is not a complete process towards healthier environment. The most important part is to correctly recycle the packaging. You can check what various recycling symbols mean on the following website: https://www.recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/packaging-symbols-explained
You can also use a recycling locator which will tell you where you can recycle a specific item, what you can put into a recycling bin at home and find nearest recycling locations.
Whichever packaging you use please do remember to do the following:
- Rinse the packing first;
- Make sure you removed all non recyclable parts;
- Put the packing into the relevant bin;
And please, please be mindful when using various products, whichever packaging you use as it is you who decide what will happen with it afterwards. Please also do not forget about your bag for life when going for shopping and do not take 10 napkins from the coffee shop when you only need one.
Let’s all recycle and make our planer a happier place to live!
EatHealthy (n.d) Guess how long it takes for plastic to biodegrade: forever. Website: https://healthyhumanlife.com/blogs/news/how-long-it-takes-for-plastic-to-biodegrade
Elysia Catering Ltd (2018) Disposable Packaging: Recyclable vs Compostable. Website: https://www.elysiacatering.com/single-post/2018/07/27/Packaging-compostable-vs-biodegradable