By 2050, we may end up with more plastic than fish in our oceans. Plastic packaging in particular is the biggest plastic polluter of our oceans, and here is where the biggest switch can be made. While conventional plastics are made from fossil fuels, a finite resource, eco friendly packaging made from bioplastics is a far more sustainable and natural solution that benefits, rather than degrades, our environment. Bioplastics are fully biodegradable and are able to be recycled through the industrial composting process – plastic packaging polluting our oceans need no longer exist at all.
What is PLA?
Polylactic acid or PLA is a bioplastic made out of plant-based materials. Industrially compostable, PLA is ideal when used in food packaging that becomes contaminated and so must be composted rather than recycled. For example, clear PLA cold cups share similar properties and functions to conventional plastic. However, PLA cold cups produce no waste once used, as they are fully biodegradable and can be industrially composted. In contrast, plastic cups contaminated by food waste are unable to be recycled at all, they simply enter landfill or our oceans, permanently harming our environment. Less than 10% of plastics are ever recycled. By dumping the equivalent to a truck filled with rubbish into the ocean every minute, there is certainly more to be done. We must begin to reduce the amount of plastic that we are using and reuse more of what we produce.
Made from plants, not oil, PLA comes from rapidly renewable resources that are naturally better for the environment. The use of PLA as an alternative to plastic packaging means that plastic waste need never be produced at all. Consider the carbon footprint of popular plastic packaging items such as takeaway containers. We favour plastic takeaway containers as a hygienic and easy option to transport food. Having performed its single-use function, contaminated plastic produces immeasurable and unnecessary waste. The very production of conventional plastic is just as bad, if not worse, than it’s destiny. PLA production gives off 75% less greenhouse gas emissions when compared to the production of conventional plastic from fossil fuels. PLA takes 65% less energy to produce PLA, proving we must make the switch for there is simply no need to continue producing plastic waste.
How is PLA disposed of?
PLA is a compostable alternative to single-use plastic packaging. Eco friendly coffee cups biodegrade in a matter of only 8 weeks once disposed of, through the industrial composting process. Composting is a greater solution than recycling for our planet. Items may only be recycled a finite amount of times before they are no longer useful. Whereas compost may be used continually to enrich the soil for new plant production. Composting builds a more circular economy on the foundations of sustainable and renewable production of resources. Avoiding harm to our planet while meeting our needs as human beings is the main outcome of composting single-use plastic.
Is PLA the solution?
In an ideal world, we would all have the time and the mindfulness required to sit down for a coffee at the café, to perhaps bring our own takeaway container and cutlery when grabbing some lunch. Let us be reminded that only a small few decades ago single-use plastic packaging did not exist. A return to the past is not the way forwards, there will always now be a certain demand for the convenience of single-use plastic packaging. We understand this need and hope that, by providing a more sustainable and renewable solution, we may do less harm to our planet. PLA has a lower carbon footprint and requires less energy for production, sharing a place in our move towards a circular economy. Yet, we all have a part to play in adapting ourselves to choosing alternatives to plastic. We must all be conscious of our collective responsibility for the environment so that we can work together to find more renewable and sustainable solutions for our needs.