As discussed in Part One and Part Two of this series, common bioplastic myths include the misunderstanding that bioplastics are better than traditional plastic, and that bioplastic means biodegradable plastic.
A third myth commonly found in the industry is that using a biodegradable plastic additive guarantees that a product is biodegradable. The myth permeates the retail, bottling and packaging industries, but consumers are typically not yet aware of this new technology.
Myth vs. Reality: Myth #3
The newest additive technology guarantees environmentally friendly plastic.
Some of the newest biodegradable plastic solutions attracting global attention leverage the use of advanced additives within the resin mix. They are growing in popularity because they do not require the plastic manufacturing process to be changed in any way, they fit in a normal recycle stream, and some even allow plastic to biodegrade in any landfill environment – aerobic or anaerobic.
These additives, such as EcoPure®, typically work by encouraging microbes to eat traditional plastics like PET and HDPE that would normally be unattractive, not only making the plastic fully biodegradable but speeding the process by light years. Instead of sitting in that landfill for 700 years, they are completely gone in 2-10 years, depending on the amount of microbes in the landfill and the density of the plastic. Casey Container is an example of a plastic manufacturer using additive technology.
The myth that seems to surround additives is that using the additive ensures biodegradability. In reality, these kinds of additives only help plastic biodegrade if used in the proper amount, which is not regulated and often not disclosed by the plastics manufacturer, and many additives have no proof supporting their claims. They rely on customers looking for a marketing hook to entice consumers, rather than actually seeking a proven product with a real environmental benefit.
Without scientific studies and third-party, unbiased research confirming what happens to the plastic over time, these claims are merely unsubstantiated statements with no basis in fact. It would be smart for companies interested in using the additive or purchasing additive-based plastics to always insist on disclosure of the additive amount in the product they purchase, verify if that amount is enough to make the plastic actually biodegrade, and require research for that specific product supporting claims of biodegradability.
Before using the additive as a marketing differentiator, it is important to understand exactly how it works and in what circumstances. This ensures there is no greenwashing of false or incomplete claims, and that the consumer gets what they think they are purchasing.