Climate Change & Biodegradable Plastic

What are biodegradable plastics?

Biodegradable plastics are plastics that can be decomposed by the action of living organisms, usually microbes, into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. Biodegradable plastics are commonly produced with renewable raw materials, micro-organisms, petrochemicals, or combinations of all three.

Type of Biodegradable Plastics?

  • Bioplastics – produced partly or entirely with biologically sourced polymers. They can be derived from plants or in combination with synthetic polymers. Not all are biodegradable

  • Bioplastics – derived from synthetic polymers.

  • Oxo-degradable plastics – conventional plastics with additives to break down faster

  • Photo-biodegradable – reacts to ultra-violet light, and it requires initial oxo-degradation

  • Hydro-biodegradable plastics – made from plant sources (like starch) and the degradation is initiated by hydrolysis

There are 7 different types of non-biodegradable regular plastic:

  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)

  • High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

  • Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

  • Polypropylene (PP)

  • Polystyrene or Styrofoam (PS)

  • Miscellaneous plastics (mixed materials)

How do Biodegradable materials affect the Environment:

Biodegradable wastes may pollute and impact the environment in the following ways: A large amount of microbial flora around the wastes is produced which may increase the risk of communicable diseases in humans, plants, and animals caused by microbes.

Biodegradable products break down much faster than other types of products. Biodegradable products break down into carbon dioxide, water vapor, and organic material, which aren't harmful to the environment. Typically, they're made from sustainable materials and plant by-products, such as cornstarch or sugarcane.

How do Biodegradable materials help the Environment?

The manufacture of biodegradable plastics results in far less environmental pollution when compared to plastics made from petroleum. When biodegradable plastics break down, they do so into harmless, nontoxic elements. They produce only 32 percent of the greenhouse gases that are emitted by petroleum-based.

How biodegradable and non-biodegradable affects the environment?

The wastes that decompose naturally in the environment and are regarded as safe for the environment are called biodegradable substances. Such wastes which do not decompose naturally in the environment and cause pollution and are also harmful to the living being are called the non-biodegradable substances.

What are solutions to climate change?

In order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we must reduce carbon emissions to the point where we hold global warming to no more than an additional 1.5 °C (~3 °F). To do that, we must as a planet commit ourselves to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This is no small feat and will require a range of solutions applied together, to reach the goal. We'll need to transition all sectors of our economy away from fossil fuels that emit carbon, increase our use of clean energy sources like wind and solar, harness the power of nature to capture carbon, and deploy technologies that capture and store carbon. This transition will happen much faster and more cost-effectively if governments enact an economy-wide price on carbon.

Our research also shows that proper land management of forests and farmlands, also called natural climate solutions, can provide up to one-third of the emissions reductions necessary to reach the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of aiming to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees (or nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The truth, however, is that even if we do successfully reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, we will still have to address harmful climate impacts, and so the solution to climate change must also include measures to adapt to the impacts of global warmin

It is particularly important that we help the most vulnerable communities adapt to climate change impacts. For example, Pacific Islanders and disadvantaged communities living in low-lying areas of Houston, Miami or Jakarta are the least responsible for the emissions causing climate change, but the most likely to suffer the consequences.

Why plastic ban is bad for the environment?

They may cause more pollution on land and in waterways, but have less effect on climate change and land use than other types of bags. Biodegradable bags, perhaps surprisingly, could be “the worst option” in terms of their impact on climate, harm to soil, water pollution and toxic emissions.

So how is plastic implicated in climate change?

Almost all plastic is derived from materials (like ethylene and propylene) made from fossil fuels (mostly oil and gas). The process of extracting and transporting those fuels, then manufacturing plastic creates billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases. For example, 4% of the world's annual petroleum production is diverted to making plastic, and another 4% gets burned in the refining process.

But how we manage all the plastic that then goes into circulation is equally troubling. Of the almost 3 million tonnes of plastic that Australia produces each year, 95% is discarded after a single use. Less than 12% is recycled, which leaves a staggering amount to be disposed of - in landfills or incinerated.

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