Plastic vs Biodegradable [Infographic]
Environmentally friendly products for events, restaurants and everyday use are rapidly growing in popularity, and (we hope) will soon replace plastic as the standard for all of our disposable needs. Biodegradable or better yet, compostable plastics are a more intelligent choice compared to petroleum based plastics for most everyday uses. Here's the dirt on understanding the difference between plastic and biodegradable products!
Plastic is everywhere, and while plastic products may make our lives more convenient, they also cause a great deal of environmental damage. Two hundred million tons of plastic are manufactured worldwide every year, and all of that plastic adds up to an extraordinary amount of waste. In the U.S. alone, 31 million tons of plastic are discarded continue below..
per year – that’s 12.4% of all of the waste produced. Sadly, only 8% of plastic waste is recovered for recycling, which means that almost all that plastic ends up in landfills. Plastic is also a major ocean pollutant: 77% of ocean debris is plastic that threatens the health of animals and the integrity of marine ecosystems. And because plastic is not biodegradable, those plastics will remain in landfills and oceans for hundreds or even thousands of years.
The manufacturing of plastic is also closely tied to the petroleum industry. Most plastics are derived from petroleum, which means plastics contribute to the damage caused by oil extraction operations. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2006, 331 million barrels of petroleum – about 4.6% of U.S. petroleum consumption – was used to manufacture plastics. Because plastic come from fossil fuels, they are also a source of dangerous toxins. When burned, many plastics release toxic chemicals, including dioxins, benzene, and hydrochloric acid. There are also additives in plastic, including phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), that are dangerous to human health and can leach from containers into food or water.
Biodegradable refers to the ability of a substance or product to break down into carbon dioxide, basic minerals and water. Organic matter such as dead plants, animals and their waste products biodegrade quickly in nature, which is why forests and other natural habitats aren't littered knee-deep in dead plants and animal carcasses. Manufactured products such as petroleum based plastics and Styrofoam, however, do not break down easily or naturally.
If something is biodegradable it has the proven capability to decompose into soil, water, carbon dioxide or methane gas within three years after being disposed of in an environment where it is allowed to break down. Biodegradable materials are generally made up from organic matters derived from plants, animals, and other substances originating from living organisms.