Eco-Friendly Gifts Blog: Biodegradable Ponchos...Made From Plants?
With plastic pollution becoming one of the most important issues in our world today, it's easy to see why people (including us) are demanding plastic free alternatives to single use plastic items.
In this blog, we are going to talk about biodegradable plastics made from renewable resources. The incredible potential these materials have to change the world, into a more sustainable place, is huge.
Being made from renewable resources, and being able to be disposed of via composting, we think bioplastics are the answer to the plastic pollution crisis.
To frame specific bioplastic items, we are going to use our biodegradable ponchos as an example. This will make it clear what the advantages of bioplastics are, over conventional fossil fuel based plastic.
Later on in the blog, we will see Biodegradable Ponchos in action, with a case study of our Eco Festival Kits.
What Are Our Biodegradable Ponchos Made From?
Our biodegradable ponchos are made from PLA, a bioplastic derived from cornstarch. Polylactic acid from cornstarch is a completely renewable material, and has the potential to be used sustainably.
This is compared to fossil fuel based plastics (this is what we think of when we hear the word 'plastic'), which are produced from manufacturing crude oil. Crude oil and fossil fuels in general are completely non sustainable, and will eventually run out. Some predict that day will come in our life time, approximately 40 years from now (if you're reading this in 2020.)
Do Our Biodegradable Ponchos Need Special Conditions To Biodegrade?
In short, yes.
As well as being biodegradable, our ponchos are fully compostable. This means they can be converted into compost, with zero waste going to landfill.
In order to guarantee they are composted fully, you can send them back to us using our free post back scheme, LFHP Zero. We have teamed up with an industrial composting partner to ensure all compostable waste can be composted fully, with zero waste going to landfill.
We will talk more later about why compostable items need special conditions that are not found in the home composting setting.
Why Do We Prefer Bioplastic To Conventional Fossil Based Plastic?
Bioplastic is our very much preferred choice over fossil fuel based plastic. We've chosen three reasons as to why we love bioplastic.
- Bioplastic is made from raw materials that are sustainable and renewable. When it comes to sustainability, fossil fuel based plastic are simply a dead end. With the main raw material in plastic being crude oil, plastic production cannot continue forever, as crue oil will eventually run out.
- Fracking is used to produce plastic. According to Earthworks, 99% of plastics are produced from oil and gas wells. As one of the most environmentally destructive methods of extracting oil, fracking has got a terrible record when it comes to the environment. Fracking has been heavily linked to earthquakes, sinkholes and contaminating drinking water.
- When plastic is incinerated, it releases emissions that pollute the air with dangerous chemicals. These toxic pollutants are potentially carcinogenic, as well as damaging to the ozone layer. As one of the main methods of disposing plastic to prevent plastic waste going to landfill, the impacts of incineration are dangerous and damaging to the environment.
Home composting vs industrial composting
One of the most confusing things about bioplastic items is how to dispose of them. Earlier, we talked about using our free post back scheme to dispose of your used biodegradable ponchos.
But why do you have to send them back to us, so we can compost them under special conditions? Why can't you just compost them in your back garden?
The answer: There are two different types of composting: home composting and industrial composting.
Home composting is what you think of as your food bin at the back of the garden. It's where you put any food that can't be eaten, or any leftovers that you can't put in the fridge.
The main confusion about composting bioplastics comes from the belief that they will break down in your home compost bin - this is false. In order for most biodegradable bioplastics to break down and decompose, they require industrial composting sites.
This is where your used compostable goods are processed you send them back to us using LFHP Zero.
In industrial composting sites, temperatures are far higher that what you would find in your home compost bin. Industrial sites maintain a temperature of approximately 58 degrees celsius, whereas home food beins are around 20 degrees celsius.
These higher temperatures are required to break down the bioplastic, and convert it into compost. If you put our biodegradable ponchos in your home compost bin, they could take a lot longer to decompose, or not at all.
The confusion of where to compost biodegradable goods is not helped by high street chains just saying:
'This item item is compostable'.
Us, like you, would assume you can compost the item anywhere. What should be said is something like:
'This item is biodegradable and compostable under industrial composting conditions'.
This way you know exactly what is needed to compost the item.
How can you tell what composting method is needed?
These days, there are two main things you should look out for to determine what composting conditions are needed.
If an item is home compostable, you should see this logo on the packaging. Seeing this means the item will break down in your home compost bin.
No special conditions are required for the decomposition, just the conditions found in the home compost setting. Typically you can expect the item to break down in around a year in your home compost bin.
Our biodegradable ponchos have not been tested in home conditions, so there is no guarantee they will break down in your home composting setting within a year.
Our biodegradable ponchos require industrial composting, with which they will decompose in 6 months. The logo to look out for to tell if something is industrially compostable is below.
This is the logo for EN 13432, which is the standard materials must meet if they are to be considered as industrially compostable. So the key things to tell what type of composting an item needs are:
- If the item has the 'OK Home Compost' logo on the packaging, it will break down in your home compost bin within a year.
- If the item has the seedling logo on it, or EN13432 is mentioned, industrial composting is needed. To give your used biodegradable poncho the industrial composting conditions it needs to break down, use our free post back scheme.
Biodegradable vs compostable
With the rise of single use plastic alternatives being produced, comes the rise of two words: biodegradable and compostable. They are often used interchangeably and incorrectly, which adds to the confusion. Let's break down (pun intended) what each of these words mean.
- Biodegradable - a material can be broken down by microorganisms into CO2, water and biomass.
- Compostable - a material can biodegrade under specific conditions, within a set time frame, and be converted into compost.
If an item is to be considered compostable, it needs to break down within a certain time frame. Just being solely biodegradable doesn't mean it will break down any time soon - it just means it has the potential to break down into CO2, water and biomass.
Theoretically, a biodegradable item, let's say a fork, could take 1,000 years to biodegrade. That fork can still be called biodegradable, as no time frame is required.
Plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller chunks of plastic, which never biodegrade. Eventually, microplastics are created, which is not a good thing!
So what you really want is for an item to be compostable as well as biodegradable.
This guarantees the item will biodegrade within a set time frame, under specific conditions, and decompose to form compost.
Festival Kits: Case Study
The Biodegradable Ponchos talked about in this blog are in the Festival Kits we provide.
Building Festival Kits around the premise of minimizing waste sent to landfill, as well as using products created from renewable resources, is what we love to do.
Our Festival Kits arrive in reusable jute bags, so there is no problem carrying your Festival Survival Kit into the event.
Are all bioplastics biodegradable?
The short answer is no.
Let's break down why this is. As you can see in the chart below from EU Bioplastics, there are four main categories of plastic.
Bioplastics are called so because they are biobased. In short, they are made from organic matter, which makes them sustainable and renewable.
However, just because a material is made from organic matter does not mean it is biodegradable. From the chart, you can see that biobased PTT is an example of a biobased non biodegradable plastic.
This means it is made from organic matter, but cannot be broken down by microorganisms into CO2, water and biomass.
The material our ponchos are made from is PLA, a bioplastic derived from cornstarch.
PLA belongs to our favourite family of bioplastic: biobased biodegradable bioplastics.
This family ticks all our boxes for sustainability - PLA is produced from renewable resources, and can be disposed of via compost with zero waste going to landfill.
Do You Think Bioplastics Are The Future?
Now we've gone through the differences between biodegradability, compostability and everything in between, we hope you love bioplastic as much as we do!
Although it has it's problems, primarily the large scale disposal service in the public sector, bioplastic has the potential to make the world a far more sustainable place.
Gifts For Eco Warriors
Reducing plastic waste sent to landfill is at the centre of each of our gifts for eco warriors.
Our growing range of unique gifts for eco warriors is designed to treat the environment around us with the respect it deserves, as well as bringing happiness to your recipient.
If you would like to read more about bioplastics, feel free to subscribe to our email list at the bottom of the page.