The short answer is no. It is necessary to unravel certain myths or preconceived ideas about these three concepts and the confusion they bring. Although they may seem similar, the three terms actually refer to three very distinct concepts:
From the outset, it must be emphasized that there is still no fixed definition of what a bioplastic is. However, this term refers to materials of two types:
- Plastics made of biobased material are derived from biomass and renewable resources such as plants. The interest raised by biosourced plastics refers precisely to the renewable nature of the supply of raw materials. This is the upstream of the product life cycle and it aims to reduce pollution at the source.
- Plastics made of biodegradable materials which under ideal conditions are compostable. Biodegradation means degradation achieved through the action of living organisms such as bacteria or fungi. This refers to the end of life of plastic and it aims to reduce the pollution generated by the product once it is no longer useful.
Some bioplastics have both characteristics: they are both biobased and biodegradable.
- Not all bioplastics are biodegradable. Think of products that must last for a long period of time, such as water pipes or some interior parts of cars. There are also biodegradable plastics that come from fossil resources and have a petrochemical transformation.
In contrast, biodegradable bioplastics are typically used for disposable items (e.g., catering products such as dishes and straws).
However biodegradable bioplastics pose some major problems. They are not recyclable with "traditional" plastics and when they end up in your recycling bin and become contaminants!
In addition, biodegradation can be extremely slow if optimal conditions are not met. Our current facilities in Canada rarely meet the necessary conditions for full biodegradation and more often than not it is not achieved. Subsequently, the accumulation of harmful substances persisting in the environment contaminate our soil, water, and air and pose a significant risk.
These are the main reasons that prevent companies from using biodegradable plastics: the contamination of recyclable plastics and little chance of biodegradation.
We work closely with different vendors to keep abreast of industry innovations and evaluate various options available.