5 Interesting Facts About Biodegradable Plastic Bags
Nowadays, we are more aware of environmental issues (like overflowing landfills and oceans littered with plastics), so we are constantly trying to improve the way we provide what’s truly important for our planet. We try to make our homes more sustainable and our habits less harmful. A first step is switching from plastic bags of all kinds to biodegradable ones.
We know that biodegradable plastic is a special kind of plastic that is broken down by microorganisms into different elements like carbon dioxide and biomass under the right conditions. However, here are five interesting facts about biodegradable plastic bags that you might not know. These facts can also help in your effort to diminish your environmental footprint.
1. Biodegradable Grocery Bags Can Save You Money
Don't you have that storage space in your house where you collect all the unwanted plastic bags? At some point, you might use some of them, but there are always too many. So, rather than making a hobby out of gathering plastic grocery bags that are not only inconvenient and costly but also damaging for the planet, try using a reusable biodegradable grocery bag.
By choosing a biodegradable grocery bag instead of a single-use plastic one, you can save a significant amount of money. You are not only reducing the sum your community must spend on cleaning up every year, but also reducing the number of non-renewable resources necessary to produce plastic bags. Considering that the average amount of time a plastic bag is actually used is only 12 minutes, it is easy to imagine how many plastic bags need to be removed from the street.
In an effort to rear customers in the right direction, numerous stores are beginning to charge more on plastic bags than they used to in the past. By taking your own biodegradable grocery bag whenever you go shopping, you end up saving money.
Not all the stores are charging extra for plastic bags, some adopt a different strategy. You will be pleased to know that some of them are offering a discount or other kind of incentive for bringing your own bag. Therefore, rather than punishing the behavior they wish to discourage, they are rewarding eco-friendly actions.
Not only do you save money, but you can also save a lot of storage space. Take a minute to think about it. If you come home with three grocery bags every week, you collect 156 bags within a year. And that's only on groceries. Bags take up a lot of room in your household, car, and workspace. You could use that space for far more important things.
Just like that, you would have the satisfaction of taking a step in cutting down the environmental footprint. Plastic bags being one of the top ten most common items found on shores and in oceans.
2. How Long It Takes for Biodegradable Bags to Decompose?
The time needed for biodegradable plastic bags to decompose depends on different factors, such as temperature, humidity, and moisture. Considering that, the average period of decomposing is three to six months. In comparison, traditional plastic bags need hundreds of years to fully decompose.
Even though all plastics are biodegradable at some point, the process takes too many years. Traditional plastics are manufactured with chemicals that bacteria cannot consume. Therefore, they cannot easily decompose or biodegrade. A plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to decompose in landfills.
When it comes to biodegradable plastics, the time of decomposing is all about where the bags end up. The only way to ensure the material completely breaks down is to make sure it ends up in a place that offers the right conditions. Also, take into consideration that decomposing in landfills takes extra time compared to an open environment.
It is essential to remember that there are also places that are inappropriate for biodegradable plastic bags, like the marine environment. If these eco-friendly products end up in the ocean, they might still prove harmful to the ecosystem.
3. Biodegradable Bags Are Not the Same with Compostable Bags
Because of the similar use of the two words, there is a lot of confusion between them. Regardless of their similarities - they are both made to break down and return to the natural environment easily -, there are also big differences that set biodegradable plastic bags apart from compostable produce bags.
Basically, many of the compostable plastic bags that can be found nowadays are manufactured to decompose in a commercial composting facility. This means that landfills are definitely not an alternative. The specialized facilities offer a specific ambiance of temperature, moisture, air, and other environmental factors to favor the break-down process.
On the other hand, biodegradable plastic bags are designed to be broken down by natural organisms like bacteria, fungi, and others. These bags may not continue to occupy space in a landfill for as long as common plastic bags.
Yet, not all biodegradable plastics decompose in landfills. Therefore, when buying biodegradable products, look for specific labels that point out the products' ability to decompose in landfills.
Considering that the most plastic we throw away winds up in landfills, we should use landfill-biodegradable plastic bags. These products are manufactured by combining traditional plastic with an organic additive that attracts microbes. Therefore, they start decomposing 90% faster than conventional plastics. Just like that, we will make a significant step in reducing our ecological footprint.
4. Companies Tend to Go for Biodegradable Packaging
The reasons behind numerous businesses turning to biodegradable packaging are pretty obvious at this point. The danger posed by climate change has progressively become one of the main reasons to worry about these days. Sadly, since it took us so long to recognize and accept these warnings, we have gotten ourselves walking on very thin ice.
Finding ourselves in this bitter scenario, it’s no wonder that big companies and businesses decided to go for biodegradable plastic bags and packaging. Unfortunately, once this change was set in motion, certain companies stirred up some controversy.
All in all, to bring on noteworthy change, consumers and manufacturers need to join forces. When we refer to environment-friendly plastic bags, we should also consider the plastic bags that we use to carry different products. Currently, many companies are ready to sell the most fashionable and eco-friendly biodegradable grocery or shopping bags. It has never been more fashionable to be sustainable.
Moreover, the consumer is a key component in this process. You are the one who would have the last word in purchasing a biodegradable bag or a plastic one. The main reason people tend to prefer the traditional material is the price.
Manufacturing a proper biodegradable plastic bag is a much more expensive process, so the purchasing price is also higher. Here is where the companies’ power of persuasion and each of our desire for change come into the equation.
5. The Main Criteria for Choosing Biodegradable Garbage Bags
When it comes to garbage bags, there are a lot of options on the market. Although, it is important to mention that the best possible solution would be to produce less waste and toss it in a bin without a liner. The downside to this strategy would be that the process would take more time overall, considering you should wash the bin after dumping loose trash.
Still, if you are not an expert on this market and you are thinking of purchasing a biodegradable garbage bag, you should consider the following criteria in your selection process.
You should test a bag's strength in comparison to the traditional plastic bags you used to purchase. Because of their composition, biodegradable bags tend to be more fragile. Therefore, don't forget to pay attention if they easily tear or leak and try to avoid overfilling.
A proper biodegradable plastic bag should be certified to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for composting and biodegrading.
One of the main criteria is, of course, how long it takes for the bag to decompose. Most of the brands would note this right on the packaging.
Take your time to study the label and also the brand's website. You should find out what kind of materials go into the bags and if they have Environmental Products, Inc. (EPI) chemical additives to accelerate plastic degradation.
You should look for verified reviews and do a little research on your own before choosing one specific product. Find out if the previous customers are truly satisfied with the products and, if not, what exactly were the problems.
The packaging of biodegradable garbage bags should also be environment-friendly. So, look after compact and recyclable packaging.
Even if there is certainly a lot to process, don't forget all the real benefits of using biodegradable bags in your daily activities. Unfortunately, plastic remains both a blessing and a curse. Although plastic remodeled the way we live, its impact on our planet today is too destructive to sustain a feasible long-term system.
While it is easy to ignore the environmental impact of plastic bags and to refuse to change our harmful habits, switching to biodegradable bags is a relatively simple swap that would minimize demand and waste of plastic items. Therefore, bring your one reusable bag to the store, switch to biodegradable garbage bags, shop with your over-the-shoulder tote, and take baby steps in a #plasticfree life.