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2023-11-04

What are biodegradable plastic bags now being made from?

Biodegradable plastic bags are gaining popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastic bags. These bags are designed to decompose naturally over time, significantly reducing their impact on the environment. This article will explore what biodegradable plastic bags are made from and how they are contributing to the global effort to combat plastic pollution.

Unlike regular plastic bags that take hundreds of years to break down, biodegradable bags are made from materials that can be broken down by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. The primary material used in the production of these bags is often called bioplastic. Bioplastics are derived from renewable sources like plant starch, corn, sugarcane, or vegetable fats and oils. The most common types of bioplastics used for producing biodegradable bags are polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA).

Polylactic acid, also known as polylactide, is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane. In the production process, corn or sugarcane is fermented to produce lactic acid, which is then polymerized to form PLA pellets. These pellets are then melted and extruded into thin films that can be used to make plastic bags. PLA-based bags have gained popularity due to their transparency, strength, and versatility. However, they require specific conditions to decompose, such as high temperature and high humidity, which may not be readily available in every environment.

Polyhydroxyalkanoates, on the other hand, are produced by bacteria as a means of storing carbon and energy. These biodegradable plastics can be synthesized from a variety of carbon sources, including plant oils, sugars, and organic waste. PHA-based bags have similar physical properties to traditional plastics and can be used for various applications. They are known for their excellent biodegradability under various environmental conditions, including in soil, water, and compost.

In addition to PLA and PHA, other materials such as aliphatic-aromatic copolyesters, polybutylene succinate (PBS), and polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) are also used to make biodegradable plastic bags. These materials possess excellent mechanical properties, biodegradability, and processing capabilities, making them suitable alternatives to conventional plastics. Some bags are also made by blending bioplastic materials with traditional plastic materials, creating a hybrid plastic with enhanced biodegradability.

The decomposition time of biodegradable plastic bags can vary depending on several factors, such as the environment, temperature, and humidity. In ideal conditions, some bags can break down within a few months, while others may take several years. It is important to note that biodegradable bags should be disposed of properly, either by composting or sending them to specialized waste management facilities. Improper disposal, such as throwing them in regular trash bins, can hinder their decomposition process and contribute to plastic pollution.

The use of biodegradable plastic bags offers several advantages. Firstly, they help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, as they are made from renewable resources. Secondly, they help mitigate plastic pollution, as they decompose into natural elements that are easily absorbed by the environment. Thirdly, the production of biodegradable bags generally generates lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional plastic bag production processes.

In conclusion, biodegradable plastic bags are made from materials derived from renewable resources such as plant starch, corn, or sugarcane. Polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are the most common types of bioplastics used for producing these bags. They offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional plastic bags, as they are designed to decompose naturally over time. However, proper disposal is crucial to ensure their effective decomposition and minimize their impact on the environment. By adopting biodegradable plastic bags, we can contribute to the global effort to reduce plastic pollution and build a more sustainable future.

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