Demystifying Different Types Of Biodegradable Plastics

Introduction – Types Of Biodegradable Plastics

Biodegradable plastics are a very innovative proposition with attributes similar to conventional plastics but reduced environmental harm potential. These materials signify the onset of a much-needed green shift. In this article we will look at types of biodegradable plastics.

Plastics have a long life-span

Understanding biodegradable plastics is helpful for both consumers eager to make sustainable choices and manufacturers aiming to innovate in the realm of eco-friendly materials.

This article serves as a comprehensive guide, shedding light on the significance, types, and applications of biodegradable plastics. By bridging the knowledge gap between production and consumption, we aim to foster informed decisions that benefit both the environment and the economy.

The Need for Biodegradable Plastics

Undeniably, traditional plastics significantly influence our lives, as seen in our food packaging, daily utilities, and more. However, the downside comes with their slow decomposition, posing grave environmental threats. Here lies the significance of biodegradable plastics – they offer requisite functionality while being environmentally gentle.

Net-Zero Biodegradable Plastics Come From A Non-Fossil Fuel Source

When evaluating the environmental impact of plastics, it’s essential to consider the carbon footprint. From a carbon sequestration standpoint, non-biodegradable plastics can be seen in a positive light; they effectively “trap” the carbon within them for extended periods, preventing it from re-entering the atmosphere.

However, this benefit is overshadowed when these plastics originate from fossil fuels, contributing to increased carbon emissions during their production.

On the other hand, biodegradable plastics, especially those derived from non-fossil fuel sources like plants, play a role in a net-zero carbon cycle. When these plastics break down, they release the carbon absorbed by the plants during their growth, resulting in no net increase in atmospheric carbon.

Thus, the true environmental advantage of biodegradable plastics is realized when they are both sourced from renewable materials and break down into natural components, completing a sustainable carbon loop.

Biodegradable Plastics Vs. Conventional Plastics

Conventional plastics are products of non-renewable petroleum and take up to a millennium to decompose. Contrarily, biodegradable plastics, derived from renewable sources, are designed to decompose naturally over a shorter period induced by microorganisms.

What are Biodegradable Plastics?

Biodegradable plastics stand apart as unique materials made from renewable sources such as plant-based polymers, proteins, and fats. Their natural degradation capability, which extends from a couple of months to a few years, sets them apart from traditional plastics.

For Consumers – Navigating Biodegradable Plastics

Understanding the certifications behind products empowers consumers to make informed and sustainable choices. When it comes to biodegradable plastics, several certifications and labels indicate a product’s commitment to environmental responsibility. Here’s a guide to some of the most recognized certifications related to biodegradable plastics:

  1. USDA Certified Biobased Product: This label indicates that the product contains a certain percentage of renewable biological ingredients. Learn more
  2. Compostable Logo (Seedling Logo): Products with this logo are certified compostable and are recognized by European Bioplastics. Learn more
  3. BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) Certified: This certification is specific to North America and indicates that a product is compostable in industrial composting facilities. Learn more
  4. OK Compost: This is a European certification indicating that a product is compostable at home or in industrial facilities. Learn more
  5. ASTM Standards: Products that meet ASTM standards (like ASTM D6400 or ASTM D6868) have been tested for biodegradability and compostability under specific conditions. Learn more

For Manufacturers – Delving into Bioplastic Types

Bioplastics are essentially a subset of biodegradable plastics, primarily plant-derived. They play a significant role in decreasing fossil fuel usage and slashing carbon emissions. Predominant types are Polylactic Acid (PLA), Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), and polycaprolactone (PCL), each being more useful for specific applications due to their unique properties.

NatureWorks Ingeo PLA

NatureWorks, a dominant player in the PLA market, offers Ingeo – a product line that seamlessly blends ecological responsibility with superior performance. Standing strong with conventional plastics in terms of performance, Ingeo sets itself apart with its minimal environmental impact. Most suitable for packaging applications, it serves as an ideal alternative for those seeking greener operations without compromising product quality.

Biomer PHA

Biomer excels in producing PHA-based fully compostable bioplastics from renewable plant sugars. These alternatives not only add value in terms of sustainability but also promise high durability and resilience.

With applications spanning from agriculture to the medical field, Biomer’s dedication to carbon neutrality further enhances the product’s appeal.

Polycaprolactone (PCL) – A Versatile Bioplastic

Polycaprolactone (PCL) is a biodegradable polyester that has garnered attention in the realm of sustainable materials. Derived from petrochemical sources, PCL stands out due to its unique blend of properties.

It possesses a slower degradation rate compared to other bioplastics, making it suitable for long-term applications. Furthermore, its compatibility with other polymers allows for the creation of blends that can be tailored for specific uses.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized PCL for certain medical applications, highlighting its biocompatibility. In the broader context, PCL serves as a testament to the potential of bioplastics, offering a balance between functionality and environmental responsibility.

Usage & Applications of Different Types of Biodegradable Plastics

The application spectrum of biodegradable plastics is diverse and evolving. They find utility in agriculture as film coverings, in healthcare as sutures and drug delivery devices, to name a few. Major consumer product companies like Coca Cola and PepsiCo have started using plant-based bottles, leading the change.

Choosing the Right Biodegradable Plastic

Choosing apt biodegradable plastic relies on specific requirements. Ensuring clarity on the expected needs and attributes such as durability, flexibility, transparency, or compostability can guide towards the optimal choice.

Role of Biodegradable Plastics in Carbon Reduction

Biodegradable plastics contribute significantly to reducing carbon emissions, mainly by reducing the dependency on fossil fuels used in conventional plastics. Additionally, they emit fewer greenhouse gases during decomposition, furthering the global fight against climate change.

Biodegradable Plastics and Sustainability

While biodegradable plastics indeed spark enthusiasm towards sustaining the environment, certain drawbacks require attention. These materials’ production might necessitate significant energy inputs, calling for comprehensive lifecycle assessments to ascertain their sustainability.


Balancing utility and environmental sustainability, biodegradable plastics offer a promising solution to ecological preservation. Information-backed choices regarding biodegradable plastics can make substantial contributions to saving our planet. Every switch towards sustainability signifies one step forward to a greener future

Staff Writer
+ posts

Leave a Comment