Is Plant Based Plastic Compostable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: August 14, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

With Global Warming breathing down our necks, it is no wonder many people are beginning to ask the question “What is best for the environment?” 

Enter Plant Based Plastics and other products meant to be more Eco-Friendly. 

Some Plant Based Plastics are Compostable. Others are not. Look for the labels that indicate whether a Plant Based Plastic is Biodegradable, Compostable, or Recyclable. 

Even when a Plant Based Plastic is Biodegradable or Compostable, it will usually need to be sent to a special factory for processing.

What Does Compostable Mean?

Compostable is a word used to refer to items that can be composted and turned into compost. 

In order for something to be compostable it has to be able to be broken down within 90 days using composting methods. Many plant based plastics are compostable. 

However, they are typically not compostable in your garden. Instead, they require large scale composting facilities.

Whether a plant based plastic is compostable depends on a number of factors. 

  • What is it made out of? 
  • How was it made?
  • Were any preservatives or stabilizers added?
  • How long will it take to decompose?
  • Does it need special equipment or facilities to decompose?

Compostable and biodegradable plant based plastics are possible and can be created. 

However, they are expensive to make, and more research needs to be done to find the best options.

What Does Biodegradable Mean?

Biodegradable is a word used to refer to things that are natural, biological (such as animals and plants), and decomposable. 

Even when plant-based plastics are not compostable they can be biodegradable. Biodegradable plant based plastics require special processing to be decomposed.

How Long Does it Take for Plant Based Plastic to Decompose?

In general, all Plant Based Plastics will decompose faster than non-plant based products. 

On average it will take anywhere from three to six months for Plant Based Plastics to decompose. 

For this reason, most plant based plastics are not compostable as compost needs to break down faster.

Can You Burn Plant Based Plastics and Is It Safe?

You can burn plant based plastics, just as you can burn other plastics. 

However, just like burning wood for a fire, plant based plastics will release gasses into the atmosphere. These same gasses are the ones causing Global Warming. 

Burning anything, even plant based products, is not safe because you may not know what was used to make them. 

Sometimes the burning of products can release even more harmful chemicals. It is best to avoid burning your own trash, even if it is plant based.

Are Plant Based Plastics Better for the Environment?

It is commonly believed that plant based plastics are better for the environment. However, the truth is it is more complicated than that. 

There are multiple terms used to refer to different plant based plastics

  • Plant Based Plastics

Plastics made from plants. They can have other ingredients in addition to plants.

  • Bioplastics

Another term for plastics made from biological, plant based, ingredients. This term does not promise that there will not be other non biological ingredients.

  • Biodegradable Plastics

Biodegradable Plastics usually refers to plastics made from plants that can be decomposed. However, not all biodegradable plastics are made from plants.

What you are left with is a bunch of uncertainty. The process of making Plant Based Plastics can be harmful to the environment. 

The process of breaking down the Plant Based Plastics can be harmful to the environment.

However, compared to traditional plastics, Plant-Based Plastics are better for the environment. 

Other Environmental Considerations

Another key factor to the eco-friendliness of plant based plastics is how the plants are grown. 

  • Are they Grown in a sustainable fashion? 
  • Are they Grown Organically? 
  • How does growing the plant affect the soil?
  • Are any chemicals used in the growing of the plants? 
  • Are the plants needed as a food source or ingredient to other products?

Even the most eco-friendly plant based plastics being manufactured today have an environmental impact. 

Are There Any Alternatives to Plastics?

At the moment the best alternatives to plastics are metals (such as aluminum or stainless steel), glass, coated cardboards, and containers made out of other sustainable materials. 

Of these the best options are stainless steel, glass, and pottery. 

Why Aren’t We Making and Using More Eco-Friendly Products and Packaging?

One of the main reasons we do not use more eco-friendly products is that they are hard to come by and we, as consumers, do not always understand why they are better. 

In addition, these confusing new products are often more expensive than traditional products.

Another reason is that the science is new.

So new, in fact, that we are still trying to create better options. 

What we have now is better than what we had. However, there is still a long way to go before plant based plastics are truly eco-friendly.

Does Organic Mean Biodegradable?

Previous Post

Does Organic Mean Biodegradable?

Next Post

Can You Recycle Plastic Trays?

Can You Recycle Plastic Trays?