Is Masking Tape Biodegradable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: July 30, 2021
  • Time to read: 7 min.

The tape has always been one of the essential household materials we should have because of its usefulness for many different purposes. 

But the problem with tape is that most of them are made of plastic and can be very difficult to degrade, especially when you throw them out. 

Here comes masking tape, which is considered to be the more environmentally safe tape. 

But is masking tape biodegradable?

Masking tape is not usually biodegradable. While masking tape may look like it is made from paper and may feel like it could be paper, it isn’t. 

Even though masking tape is not made to be biodegradable, it is made from recycled materials, which makes it friendly to the environment in a sense. 

It seems like it should break down relatively easily, doesn’t it? After all, paper is biodegradable.

Unfortunately, however, that thin layer of adhesive on the masking tape of your choice ruins any chance that masking tape ever had of being considered biodegradable.

Yes, at this point, some of you may be shocked to know that what you initially thought was paper isn’t paper at all, as masking tape was never really made from biodegradable paper (hence it can withstand water better than paper).

One of masking tape’s most significant selling points is that it is liquid-proof, making it a perfect choice for painters and DIYers alike.

Waterproofing and adhesion of this product are made possible through the use of solvents, light acrylics, or hot-melt adhesive, none of which are even remotely biodegradable. 

But you’ll also be surprised to know that masking tape isn’t all that harmful to the environment. 

And that is a topic we are here to talk more about.

What is masking tape?

There are plenty of different types of tapes that can be used for a wide variety of other purposes. 

Here comes masking tape, which used to be a type of tape designed for one specific purpose but has since become one of the more versatile tapes you can use for almost any kind of project.

Masking tape is a light kind of adhesive tape that is a lot easier to tear apart than other tapes. 

You won’t need scissors when you are using masking tape because you can tear it off with your bare hands. 

And the reason why masking tape was invented was to be used for paint.

The truth is that painters used masking tape to cover parts that were not supposed to be painted because it is quite easy to apply and can withstand liquids. 

But the best part about masking tape is that it doesn’t leave a mark when you remove it, making it perfect for painters who want to cover the features they want to avoid painting but want to make sure that there are no adhesive marks leftover in those covered areas.

But because masking tape is a light adhesive, it has found many different uses in many households compared to other types of tapes that tend to be stickier and tend to leave marks when removed. 

That’s why they are used to label things, hang party streamers, and make small race tracks on the floor. 

Adding to its versatility is that it can stick to almost any material and easily be removed without leaving stains.

Does Masking Tape Have Plastic?

You know the ordinary clear tape that you can find in practically any junk drawer that is obviously made of plastic. 

Most tapes are made with plastic elements, just like that clear office tape. 

On the other hand, Masking tape was developed for drastically different applications than other tapes you may be used to seeing.

Masking tape is not made out of plastic. Instead, it consists of just two simple layers.

  • Crepe paper that tears easily by hand
  • An adhesive layer comprised of solvents, light acrylics, or hot-melt rubber

It is designed to stick but not leave behind any residue or damage. Plastics would interfere with the effectiveness of masking tape. 

Is Masking Tape Toxic?

When used appropriately, masking tape is not considered a source of toxins that we need to worry about. 

Masking tape does come with a warning that the adhesive may irritate your skin or eyes if there is direct contact, but no toxicity will occur.

If eaten in small amounts, masking tape is expected to pass on its own; however, consuming large quantities can pose a blockage danger to the bowel.

Toxicity isn’t really a factor when using masking tape appropriately. 

However, because masking tape is heat resistant up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, people occasionally make the mistake of using this product in their ovens when cooking. 

Acrylate polymers in the adhesive layer of masking tape will out-gas if exposed to high temperatures for an extended time.

These gases are quite toxic when inhaled by people or pets. 

Is masking tape environmentally friendly?

Now that you know more about masking tape, you may be wondering if it is designed to be biodegradable. 

After all, it looks and feels like paper and can easily be torn apart, similar to how paper is relatively easy to tear apart.

Yes, some masking tapes are made from paper. As you know, paper is biodegradable because you can quickly leave it up to nature to decompose it. 

Even though some types of masking tapes are made from paper, they are not biodegradable.

You may have noticed that when you are using masking tape for painting or masking tape wet, it is quite resistant to liquids and will not readily absorb them. 

That’s because there is a particular layer on top of the masking tape’s paper-like material. 

And while the paper may be biodegradable, the layer that is resistant to liquid isn’t. 

Hence, masking tape isn’t biodegradable.

But just because masking tape isn’t biodegradable doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t environmentally friendly. 

The truth is that some masking tapes are made from recycled materials. 

That only means that you are using something that has already found a second life after being recycled into masking tape. 

In that sense, masking tape is a lot friendlier to the environment than other tapes are because it was made from materials that have already been recycled and repurposed.

Is Masking Tape Recyclable?

Some masking tapes are actually made with recycled paper pulp. 

That doesn’t mean that masking tape itself, however, is recyclable. 

Unfortunately, regular masking tape is not recyclable in a conventional manner. 

We currently lack the equipment and processing power to recycle complex items like these that are a mix of biodegradables and nonbiodegradables. 

Is Masking Tape Compostable?

Some sources claim that masking tape is, in fact, compostable because it is a non-plastic, paper-based tape. 

These claims are false, however. 

Any experienced composter knows that you do not put items in your compost that can’t be naturally broken back down into natural, healthy material for the soil. 

The adhesive layer on masking tape is not compostable. 

So although part of the product will break down, it is not considered compostable.

How Long Does It Take For Masking Tape To Decompose?

Masking tape, like other tapes, includes a long polymer chain that will take years to break down even under ideal circumstances for decomposition. 

In addition, synthetic chemicals are used to produce the adhesive layer and the waterproof and temperature-proof element of the product. 

These complex chemical chains ensure that masking tape will live on for many years in the landfill.

The exact length of time it takes for products like masking tape to break down is unknown at this point. 

We haven’t been studying it for long enough or in controlled enough environments to definitively say how long it takes to decompose. 

How to find biodegradable masking tape?

Suppose you want to find biodegradable masking tape. 

In that case, there is an entirely different type of masking tape that is a lot friendlier to the environment than your regular masking tape.

It is primarily made from paper and doesn’t have the same layer as a non-biodegradable substance that your usual masking tape has. 

We are talking about something called washi tape.

Washi tape is a special kind of masking tape made to look like paper, similar to how masking tape also looks and feels like paper. 

But washi tape is made from organic materials and fibers such as hemp and bamboo. 

This makes it friendlier to the environment as it was just repurposed natural materials that are quite affordable.

On top of how friendly washi tape is to the environment and how affordable it is, you will also love the fact that washi tape comes in hundreds of different colors, designs, and patterns. 

In most cases, washi tape is primarily used for decorative purposes because of its aesthetic appeal.

While washi tape isn’t technically masking tape, it is similar to it in the sense that it is quite durable and easy to tear off. 

And like masking tape, it is a light and clean adhesive that doesn’t leave behind a sticky residue, making it ideal for all of the other stuff you do with masking tape. 

But it might not work as well as masking tape is when you are painting. 

Still, any other thing that masking tape can do, washi tape can do as well, but it is friendlier to the environment.

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