Are you confused about biodegradable substances, non-biodegradable substances, and degradable substances? Let’s take a closer look at how these materials differ from one another in today’s amazing blog.
What is biodegradable?
People talk constantly of degradable, biodegradable, and no biodegradable substances over the years, especially in the context of plastics. It’s good to understand these terms finally, so if someone asks you, “what is non-biodegradable?” you can provide people with a good answer. There are also different types of biodegradable materials. Today’s discussion will revolve around polymers and biopolymers, as these cause the biggest confusion ever.
What Is the Meaning of Biodegradable Substances?
Biodegradable meaning: the most basic definition of a biodegradable substance is that microorganisms like bacteria can be broken down into the simplest compounds or components. Now let’s talk about how this figures into the new plastics economy. For the longest time, plastics are typically made as non-biodegradable substances. They can’t be broken down by natural means.
Plastics will persist in the environment for at least five hundred years before they finally disappear. And that’s just an estimate. Many scientists say that it can take up to one thousand years before plastic breaks down. That’s a long time for humans, who are continually consuming and manufacturing more plastic every day.
There has to be a pause somewhere, and right now, that pause button appears to be biodegradable plastics.
Why are biodegradable plastics so important in the context of creating a more sustainable environment? To reduce the impact of plastics, we need to reduce the amount we are adding to the environment at the moment. This means we need to work on the materials that we use daily.
We know now that conventional plastics are not the way to go. There’s no way to meaningfully and safely get rid of them, apart from recycling. However, only 8% of all the world’s plastics are ever recycled. Not every country prioritizes the recycling, sorting, and reusing of plastics. They’re thrown into landfills, and traditional landfills tend to fill up fast.
This has always been a concern with conventional plastics. Plastics manufactured with petroleum byproducts are also toxic wherever they may be. And when you burn them to reduce the space they use in landfills, plastics release thousands of toxic chemicals in the air, effectively poisoning the air around the incineration site.
Biodegradable plastics are a big game-changer in this respect. Unlike regular polymers, the production of biopolymers reduces the release of CO2 to the air by 2/3. The recycling process of polymers also uses less energy and releases less CO2, so it’s a good thing there are methods to recycle plastics.
As the world moves toward less dependence on conventional polymers, we will begin to see a much lower dependence on the use of landfills, too. Landfills are not the solution, as they accumulate solid waste. The goal is to reduce the waste or design the waste away, if possible. This is the concept behind the circular economy, where waste isn’t part of the design anymore. Completely biodegradable or compostable plastics are part of this newfound plastics economy, but there’s still much to be done.
What Are Biodegradable Substances Give Examples?
Biodegradable substances examples: the most common biodegradable substances around us are plant-based materials and products from animals.
Food waste is ubiquitous and also happens to be completely organic and compostable. All food waste can be composted and brought back to the earth, where natural processes will take care of their complete breakdown in a matter of weeks or months.
There is absolutely no difficulty in breaking down organic waste, and industrial composting facilities are equipped with space and machinery to speed up the process.
Compostable plastics push the limit of what can be done to plastics at the moment.
This type of plastic is the most promising because even durable plastics (the hardest biopolymers) can be decomposed with a combination of air, bacteria, and higher temperatures, without releasing toxic fumes into the air. This is important for the development of biopolymers. The biopolymers have to break down without leaving behind a ton of toxins, like conventional polymers. This is the main reason why degradable polymers are not placed on the same level as compostable polymers and other biodegradable bioplastics. Degradable polymers may break down on a physical level, but chemically, there is no decomposition, and they leave behind literal poisons. You may think that this isn’t so bad when these degradable polymers take up so much space in landfills, and they need to be reduced. However, the land is intimately connected with water. Eventually, the toxins left behind by degradable polymers made from fossil fuel sources will reach our drinking water through the action of erosion and the hydrological cycle. There is no escape from plastics’ vicissitudes, so the only true way to keep humanity safe is by making sure that we have a good alternative to plastics – and that is biodegradable plastics.
What Is Non-Biodegradable?
Non-biodegradable materials are materials that cannot be broken down through natural means. The best point of reference would be organic materials like wood and food waste. You can observe these materials being broken down, day by day, until nothing remains. Nature takes care of these things, and we don’t have to worry about them. If there were a ton of banana peels somewhere in a landfill, nature would make quick work of those banana peels. They will eventually be returned to the earth as plant food. The carbon stored in the banana peels will be returned to the earth, too. Insects and bacteria will perform the final breakdown until the organic matter is returned to nothing. Non-biodegradable materials, on the other hand, will not break down like that. They will persist for up to a thousand years, and if we don’t do anything now to remedy the problem, then we have a looming era of plastic that we have to contend with. Does anyone like to live on a planet whose main feature is having innumerable tons of plastic on land and in the ocean?