jeudi 17 septembre 2009

Slow down needed on biodegradable plastics

Here is my article on biodegradable plastics published on Packaging Mag Australia
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In an international context marked by a decrease in fossil resources and an increase in oil price, the development of materials made from renewable resources becomes the main challenge of sustainable development.
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Furthermore, today’s environmentally conscious consumers and brand owners are seeking out eco-friendly products, such as biodegradable plastics.
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Bioplastics are flourishing; a recent Germany-based Helmut Kaiser Consultancy estimates that the global biodegradable plastics market is growing at 20-30 percent/year, and will jump from 400 million pounds in 2006, to 10 billion pounds by 2015.
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A 2007 report from US-based BCC Research forecast the global bioplastics growth rate at 17 percent/year from 541 million pounds in 2007 to 1.2 billion pounds by 2012.
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While biodegradable plastics are being embraced, labelling confusion, scepticism on functional abilities and environmental claims continue to pose challenges and concerns.
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Confusion in terminology
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Terms such as "biodegradable, compostable, oxo-degradable or biodegradable" are widely used as arguments for promoting eco-friendly products.
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Moreover the term "bioplastic" includes both biodegradability as a product property and the use of renewable raw materials.
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A bioplastic can be both, or one or the other. Improper or inconsistent semantic can lead to confusion, which prevent consumers to make clear and sustainable choices.
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End of life hurdles
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The main risks arise at the end of life phase. Instead of being composted, bioplastics may find their way into: a) Recycling facilities where they are likely to contaminate the waste stream, or b) Landfill where they will contribute to increase the generation and release of methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
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Renewability and sustainability of bioplastics are questioned
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Biopolymers are made from crops that would otherwise be used for food. However, they cannot be compared to bio-ethanol.
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The percentage of US food production that would be used for worldwide bio-plastics production is 0.0005 per cent.
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This cannot be considered to have an effect on food scarcity, especially when compared to bio-fuels which used approximately 18 per cent of US grain production in 2008.
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In conclusion, biodegradable plastics have a "great potential", but it is "vital" to introduce them while developing and implementing the suitable infrastructure so that they could be properly disposed of.
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I believe that introduction of bioplastics should be done in a more reasonable way which can demonstrate benefit to the environment.
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Composting may be the key to maximising the real environmental benefits of biodegradable plastics. If not, the "Boom" could turn into a "Fiasco".
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1 commentaire:

Philippe a dit…

I agree 100% with your comments.
Many raw material marketers use "bio" word incentives to attract potential customers into a biodegradable attitude when it is not possible in a natural way and will generate more methane emissions in the end. Moreover,, in most cases, there is no sorting process in place and will never be for such a small volume. The end result is more contamination in what could be a clean recycling chain.
philippe