The Biodegradable Blindfold
Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Plastic is used everywhere in modern day society and at this point its use is inevitable. At our current rate of usage, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than the amount of fish. Plastics can clog our infrastructure, overwhelm our disposal sites and kill more life than imaginable. Cases of wildlife eating and consuming plastic ultimately leading to their early death are becoming more and more common. Given that most plastics last forever, it is only a matter of time before we begin seeing humans die due to the direct effects of plastics in our environment.
In the United States alone, more than 100 million single-use plastic utensils are used and thrown away each day. The majority of these plastic utensils are made from polystyrene which can take up to 1000 years to decompose. This would constitute around 40 billion plastic utensils being thrown away each year, (in the United States) and this is only from the food industry. These plastics pollute our environments, oceans and damage life so why aren’t we changing our habits?
There are many solutions that have been proposed but most fail to actually fix this problem. Everyone knows about recycling, and in truth, it works. However, ever since China - the world’s largest market for recycled plastic - shut its doors to waste in 2018, it is no longer financially beneficial to recycle plastic waste. This is because the recycled material is usually of lower quality, the price of regular plastics have dropped to pennies, and there’s no one willing to buy these recycled products/materials.
What about biodegradable plastics?
(above is a video from the University of Plymouth on an investigation into the effectiveness of biodegradable plastics)
The sad truth is that most biodegradable plastics are just as bad if not worse for the environment. In truth, Biodegradable plastics are meant to degrade into the environment much faster compared to regular plastic due to additives that attract living microbes to break down the plastic. At first this seems like the case, biodegradable plastic quickly breaks down into smaller fundamental units, preventing large plastic pieces from contaminating the environment, however, these fundamental units aren’t actually organic, therefore the same plastic content is entering ecosystem, we just can’t see it, making it even more dangerous. Unfortunately, when tested, people have found that the smallest units of biodegradable plastic last as long in the environment as conventional plastics. On top of this, ‘biodegradable’ plastics are resource intensive and actually end up releasing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over its lifetime compared to normal plastics. The absolute worst part, they aren’t recyclable.
Therefore, many businesses fall into the trap of thinking that using biodegradable plastic is enough of a step in the right direction. In reality, this is merely a shift from a bad product to a more expensive bad product. False advertising and marketing schemes are largely to blame for this common misconception, however it is also our responsibility as consumers to be aware about the products we consume and how we conduct our businesses.
What is the real sustainable alternative to one time plastic?
Wooden products are created entirely using organic materials. Unlike existing biodegradable plastics, when wooden products decompose in the environment they quickly and fully breakdown into their organic elements, creating no disturbance to the ecosystem. Compared to biodegradable plastics, wooden cutlery cost slightly more to produce due to the organic resources used as well as the manufacturing processes for wood. However, as of now there is only a $0.02 difference between producing a wooden and plastic fork. This is a small price all businesses should be willing to spend to help maintain our environment. Additionally, the price discrepancy between the two will likely fall in the coming years as the global economy invests more into sustainable manufacturing.
What role does Terrabite play in this issue?
Terrabite is joining the movement against plastics by providing a legitimate sustainable alternative to one time plastics. We sell these wooden alternatives to stores in Singapore looking to turn to truly environmentally friendly business practices. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you too would like to join the movement and transform your business or lifestyle to one that helps preserve this beautiful earth.