The Current Standard of Biodegradability
Biodegradable Packaging—hasn't that been done already?
It depends on how you define success. How the industry has defined success and what most consumers think has been achieved are two very different things. The word ‘biodegradable’ doesn’t mean what you probably think it means. According to the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) a material is considered “biodegradable” if it will eventually break down, regardless of how long it takes for it to do so.
Compostable materials, however, do have a a timeframe attached to the name. Certified compostable packaging is meant to be readily broken down in an industrial composting facility. This isn’t the same thing as backyard composting. Many materials that are certified as compostable will only break down in the very specific conditions generated in a composting facility and they behave very similarly to petroleum-based polyethylene in other environments like landfills and oceans.
Industrial Composting just isn’t an option for a lot of people. Very few cities have industrial composting available for those that want to opt in. For this reason, many cities that are rolling out legislation to ban plastic bags include a ban on bags labeled “biodegradable”, “degradable”, “compostable” or similar. Clearly our “eco-friendly” solutions just aren’t good enough yet.
Misleading branding surrounding “oxo-degradable” packaging has further confused the average consumer into thinking the plastic pollution problem has been solved. Oxo-degradable packaging is petroleum-based plastic with additives that allow it to break apart more quickly than other plastic. The problem is that these fragments will still last centuries in the environment. Simply having smaller pieces of plastic in the environment isn’t actually solving a problem, especially in an ecosystem where the plastic could be confused with food by wildlife.
Bioplastics: The problems they have and have not yet solved
Bioplastics have been an attractive option for many packaging companies because they are derived from organic matter: a renewable resource. However; the label “bioplastic” is itself misleading. A material can contain up to 80 percent petroleum-based plastic and still be considered a bioplastic if the remaining 20 percent is sourced from renewable material.
Those who market these plastics would have you believe that since the material is derived from organic material, it behaves the same as an apple core or a banana peel would if thrown away. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple. Most bioplastics are produced by chemically modifying the biopolymer to improve the mechanical and aesthetic properties of the material. Despite its organic derivative, the resulting product doesn’t necessarily behave the same in the environment. Some recent studies have shown that bioplastics haven’t completely delivered on their promises:
- A case study conducted by a nonprofit partner of the United Nations to evaluate the performance of common biodegradable products on land and sea environments: 5Gyres BAN List 2.0
- A National Geographic article on research done at Plymouth University that evaluates the claims of biodegradable bag manufacturers: Biodegradable shopping bags buried for three years still work
A difficulty that bioplastics present in the fight against plastic pollution is that they often contaminate recycling processes. Bioplastic products are often accompanied with some symbol to advertise the eco-friendliness of the material. These symbols can easily be mistaken to mean they are recyclable and should be treated like normal plastic. Some bioplastics, like the ones made from 100% renewable sources, can be recycled. However, many of the bioplastic products that currently exist aren’t designed for a circular economy.
The issues with bioplastics go beyond factors regarding pollution. Corn is one of the most common sources of organic matter for bioplastics. We, as a species, have found a lot of uses for corn. That corn also requires water and land resources before it can be used in bioplastic manufacturing, which has an environmental footprint of its own. Even if bioplastic can be made from renewable sources, the energy and resource requirements should also be taken into consideration.
The problems we've solved at Neptune
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what makes us different from the others. The fact is that our plastic packaging will behave like an apple core in the environment. It’s edible, it dissolves in water after about an hour, it’s strong enough to package most things you would buy online, and you can probably guess that it doesn’t contain any petroleum products.
What our plastic doesn't solve
The plastic we have developed is durable, economical, and eco friendly. No other existing products can compare to what we have created. Our plastic is dependable yet completely biodegradable, and is the solution to the environment’s plastic pollution crisis. This breakthrough will prove to be revolutionary in every industry that utilizes plastic. Do your part to clean up the world’s plastic pollution epidemic. Become one of the first of many companies to utilize this innovative product. If you’d like to know more or if you’d like to use our packaging, please reach out to us on our “Contact Us” page.