Biomass and Biodegradable Plastics: Eco-Friendly Plastic Materials
In Japan, since the implementation of charging for plastic shopping bags in July 2020, many people have become increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of plastic materials. To address various issues, such as the global problem of ocean plastic waste, global warming, and the urgent need for domestic waste disposal methods due to import regulations on waste plastics in Asian countries, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment has set milestones to be achieved by 2030 and is focusing on these efforts.
One might wonder why it is necessary to reduce the use of plastic products, which have been widely utilized for their convenience and cost advantages. Additionally, what materials should be used as substitutes? At The Pack America, we continue to research and study eco-friendly plastic materials alongside efforts to replace them with paper materials.
What Are Eco-Friendly "Bioplastics"?
Have you heard the term "bioplastics"? With the growing demand for environmentally friendly plastic materials, more people have become familiar with this term in recent years. Bioplastics refer to two categories of materials: "biomass plastics" made from biomass and "biodegradable plastics" that break down through microbial action. It's important to note that these two materials have different characteristics, as described below.
"Biomass plastics" are characterized by their raw materials derived from plant resources like corn and sugarcane. Since plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow and can be regenerated indefinitely, biomass plastics can be considered sustainable. On the other hand, "biodegradable plastics" are distinguished by their properties. They break down over time into the water and carbon dioxide due to the action of naturally occurring microorganisms. This characteristic makes them unsuitable for long-term storage.
Some materials possess both characteristics, while others may have only one. Therefore, when considering alternative materials, selecting the appropriate material based on the intended use of plastic is essential.
About Biomass Plastics
As mentioned earlier, biomass plastics are "sustainable plastics made from renewable organic resources derived from living organisms, or biomass." They are effective when water resistance and strength are required, which paper materials cannot replace. In addition, biomass plastics do not affect the food supply because they use waste byproducts like corn and sugarcane or inedible plant materials.
Biomass plastics are typically not 100% biomass-based; they are often mixed with conventional petroleum-based materials at various percentages.
Biomass plastics are environmentally friendly because they contribute to a "decarbonized society." Plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, and by following the "carbon neutral" concept, the carbon dioxide generated during combustion can be offset, effectively reducing it to zero.
It's important not to confuse the fact that they don't necessarily have biodegradable properties. After being used as packaging, they must be disposed of properly, just like petroleum-based plastic products. If they accidentally leak into the environment, they may not break down and can remain in oceans or soil, potentially causing harm. Therefore, it's essential to understand the correct disposal methods.
Types and Mechanisms of Biodegradable Plastics
Biodegradable plastics are a collective term for plastic materials that break down into the water and carbon dioxide through the action of naturally occurring microorganisms. By blending special materials with plastic, the entire packaging becomes biodegradable.
There are various types of biodegradation, such as those that break down in composting environments, soil, or even marine environments. Each has its specific degradation conditions. Additionally, biodegradable plastics are made from plant-based biomass and those derived from petroleum. Rest assured that we will suggest the most suitable material based on the intended use and contents of the packaging.
Many people might not fully understand the concept of "decomposition through microbial action." For example, in the case of soil biodegradation, microorganisms in the soil break down the material at the molecular level, converting it into water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). However, under certain conditions during storage or use, decomposition may be accelerated, making it unsuitable for packaging that needs to be stored or used for extended periods.
Furthermore, developing plant-based biodegradable materials that can be recycled or upcycled is gradually progressing. Therefore, while aiming for the collection and reprocessing of used materials, materials that cause less environmental impact by degrading if they accidentally escape collection and get discarded can be considered more suitable for current needs.
Introducing Bioplastic Shopping Bag Development Products
We are proud to introduce the products that The Pack America has created samples of using bioplastics:
- Soil biodegradable resin These bags guarantee the strength required for use as carry-out bags at retail stores. 90% or more decomposition has been confirmed in six months within a 58% compost environment.
- Marine biodegradable resin In marine environments, these bags have been confirmed to decompose into carbon dioxide over approximately one year. Due to weaker seal adhesion strength, they are suitable for lightweight items. However, since standards for marine biodegradability in the context of paid shopping bag regulations are not yet established, this material cannot be provided for free.
If you want to see a sample or have any inquiries about the material, please consult us using the contact form below. Also, for product-related questions, don't hesitate to reach out.