Is Bakelite Biodegradable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: August 20, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about Bakelite. So, in this article, you will be able to find out is Bakelite biodegradable?

Bakelite is not biodegradable. This is because it is a polymer based on a chemical combination of phenol and formaldehyde.

Bakelite is often labeled a biodegradable plastic, but is this really true? Find out everything you need to know about this polymer coming up in this article.

Is Bakelite a Biodegradable Plastic?

Bakelite was one of the first plastic-like materials to be introduced into our modern world in  1907. It was first popular because it could be molded and then hardened into any shape. 

It was especially famous because of its heat-resistant properties.

Bakelite is a polymer that is made of a combination of phenol and formaldehyde. The polymers that make up Bakelite are synthetic. 

And since Bakelite is a synthetic material, it is not biodegradable. Plastics are not biodegradable. 

Plastics such as Bakelite never biodegrade. This is because the naturally occurring enzymes and microbes in the soil cannot break down this material. Instead of breaking down naturally, this material only degrades over time. 

What do we mean by that? Well, it damages the environment as it breaks into smaller pieces of plastic. It takes hundreds of years or even longer to do so.

To prevent plastics such as Bakelite from damaging our environment, you should ensure that you recycle them properly. 

This means placing them in the right recycling bin. You should also limit your use of plastic as much as possible and reuse it or even upcycle it when you can.

When Did They Stop Using Bakelite?

Bakelite first began to be introduced to the public in the first decade of the 20th century. 

It soon became very popular as it was the first material of its kind that could be molded and colored into shapes that were useful for people around the home. 

But it didn’t take long for Bakelite to become old news. When did this happen?

In the 1940s Bakelite stopped being widely used. This was because of the rise of other similar products that worked better than Bakelite. 

These newer plastic products could often be colored better than Bakelite plastic. They were also less light sensitive than Bakelite products. All of these factors meant there wasn’t any room left in the market for Bakelite.

Bakelite products also stopped becoming so widely popular after the 1940s because cheaper plastic materials came onto the market. 

And with the price difference between Bakelite and these newer plastics, Bakelite simply couldn’t stand up against the competition. 

That said, there are still a few Bakelite products being produced down to this day.

What Is the Most Environmentally Friendly Plastic?

We all know the evils behind plastics. Many of them can only be used once, we throw them away and then they end up sitting in landfills while they slowly degrade over hundreds of years. 

And of course, they don’t degrade quietly. They damage the environment and our ecosystem as they disintegrate into microplastics

With all of this in mind, many people are looking for better plastic choices. Better said, they are looking for eco-friendly plastics that do good for the planet. 

But what makes a type of plastic eco friendly? Take a look at the following requirements that make certain types of plastic good for our earth. 

  • You can reuse it. Plastic containers that are reusable are better for the environment than single-use plastic containers. You can now find a large variety of reusable plastic straws and reusable plastic cups on the market that take some of the strain off the environment. 
  • You can recycle it. Plastic that you can recycle does a world of good. This kind of plastic can be placed in your home recycling bin. It is then molded into something else. 
  • It is made from plant based materials. Some of the most eco friendly plastic is made out of materials that can be broken down by naturally occurring microbes and bacteria. We call these plastics bioplastics or PLA as they are derived from plants. 
  • It is made from petroleum based materials. Eco friendly plastic is also plastic that is made either in part or wholly from petroleum based materials. These materials break down quickly when in the right environment (enough heat, light, and moisture). This type of plastic is already being used in some food packaging and even to make some kinds of plastic cups.

What Type of Material Is Biodegradable?

For a material to be biodegradable, it must be able to decompose naturally.  Naturally occurring critters should be able to decompose a material for it to be classed as biodegradable. 

They should be able to get rid of the material within a certain allotment of time and also in their natural habitat. What kind of critters are we talking about? They are:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Other microorganisms

It’s easier to get an idea of what kinds of materials are and aren’t biodegradable by comparing them. 

So, the following is a list of some biodegradable materials and some non biodegradable materials. 

Make sure that you recycle your non-biodegradable materials properly. This will ensure that they do not end up in a landfill and harm our planet.

Biodegradable MaterialsNon-biodegradable Materials
Dead animals
Hazardous substances

Final Thoughts

Bakelite is one of the pioneer plastic like materials to become readily available to the public in the first decade of the 20th century. 

Although it has been around for such a long time, many people still question how it is composed and how it breaks down. Is Bakelite biodegradable?

As we have seen in this article, Bakelite is not biodegradable. This is because Bakelite is made of polymers of plastic and plastic is a synthetic material. 

There are, however, some biodegradable plastics that are becoming more popular in the market today that are more eco friendly and better for our planet.

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