Are containers biodegradable? (7 benefits of recycling containers)

This article will explain whether containers are biodegradable or not. Other covered aspects would include:

  • Can containers degrade readily?
  • Can containers be recycled?
  • How can containers be safely disposed of?
  • How can containers be reused?
  • FAQs

Are containers biodegradable?

Containers are non-biodegradable because most containers are made from metals and plastics. 

These materials are regarded as non-biodegradable and may require as many as five hundred years to degrade and decompose. 

It is important that containers must be thrown in blue-coloured dustbins because that is where non-biodegradable and recyclable waste is thrown. 

Recycling plastic and metal containers is not only an option but should rather be a compulsion as it leads to better waste management, decreased use of resources, and financial benefits too. 

Are plastic containers biodegradable?

Plastic containers are made from a type of plastic called PET which expands to polyethylene terephthalate. This type of plastic is most commonly used in the making of containers and water bottles. 

While it is relatively safe for food applications, PET is not biodegradable. It will require hundreds of years to degrade. 

As per research endeavours, it is claimed that PET will require more than 450 years to degrade. Based on it, an assumption can clearly be made that containers made from PET are not biodegradable. 

The problem is not just about biodegradability. There will be other environmental impacts too that will be caused by the fact that PET containers are not biodegradable. 

This is mainly because PET is made from the derivatives of fossil fuels. When fossil fuels are burnt, there is an emission of harmful gases. These harmful gases may include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, ozone et cetera. 

These gases are called greenhouse gases and they lead to the environmental phenomenon of global warming. Global warming further leads to many unwanted environmental changes that include: 

  • Rising sea levels
  • Melting of glaciers
  • Pollution
  • Habitat destruction
  • Disruption in ecosystem
  • Deforestation
  • Effects on food chains 

Are metal containers biodegradable?

The other type of material that is commonly used to make containers is metal. Metal, like plastics, is also not biodegradable. 

This is mainly because microbes do not utilise metal as there is no nutritional content in the metal. As a result, metal products may remain in the environment or landfills for up to 500 years. As can be seen, the case of metal containers is not that different from plastic containers. 

Before we proceed any further, let us revise and revisit our knowledge of what biodegradability is and how it differs from degradability. 

Biodegradation is the process of breakdown of waste into simple materials by the action of microbes. Because microbes are involved, the process has the word ‘bio’ in it. Bio means life. 

Most people confuse the two terms (biodegradation and degradation). There is a subtle yet blunt difference between the two. 

Degradation is the breakdown that may be caused by chemicals. For example, plastic may degrade into microplastics by the action of sunlight or heat. This is called degradation

However, when animal bodies are decomposed, microbes are in action. They devour the nutrition present in the body and there are no remains left as such apart from bones. This is called biodegradation. 

Can containers be recycled? (7 benefits of recycling containers)

Consumers who are conscious of the biodegradability status of containers also want to know if they can recycle containers. In many ways, recycling is a better alternative to disposal because it implies no waste at all.

As regards the question, yes it is possible to recycle containers. Containers are made from natural, non-toxic materials and there would not be any complications when containers are processed in the recycling facilities.

You may wonder why recycling is important. As regards this question, it can be answered in the following points:

  • Recycling containers leads to better waste management 
  • Recycling containers leads to better resource management
  • Recycling containers leads to improved employment opportunities
  • Recycling containers leads to decreased use of resources
  • Recycling containers leads to decreased GHG emissions and greenhouse effect
  • Recycling containers leads to economic benefits to the consumers and the producers
  • Recycling is regarded as one of the best solutions to deal with non-biodegradable waste such as plastic or metal containers

When containers are recycled, they are not needed to be made from scratch. This means that the source is not given any unnecessary burden.

Containers are made from plant-based materials such as cotton or linen. When containers will be recycled then there would not be any burden on cotton production.

This will increase the possibility of decreased use of agrochemicals such as fertilisers or pesticides.

Also, when containers are recycled, half of the production processes would already have been done. This means that there will be decreased energy consumption. And because energy is mostly taken from fossil fuels, it would also mean that by recycling containers, there will be a decrease in GHG emissions.

This may mitigate the exacerbated environmental conditions and anomalies such as global warming, deforestation, and unprecedented weather patterns.

One factor that must be mentioned here is that recycling is regarded as one of the best solutions to deal with non-biodegradable waste such as plastic or metal containers. 

This is mainly because when containers are recycled, their negative impacts on the people and the planet are deterred, if only ephemerally. 

However, you need to know where and how you can recycle cloth bags to reap these given benefits.

Containers may be recycled by either disposing of them in recycling bins or by transporting them to the nearest recycling centres. You may also contact the recycling centres via phone or email and request a pick-up. That way, you would not need to go beyond limits to get your containers recycled.

How can containers be recycled?

You do not really need to do much since recycling is handled by professionals. All you need to do is to make sure that the containers you intend to recycle reach the recycling centres. This can happen in two ways: 

  • You can either dump the containers in recycling bins which can then be collected by the recycling centres
  • You can also contact the recycling centres to schedule a pick-up or you can send the container to the recycling centres

Almost every state does have recycling centres. And, it is rather easy to hunt for recycling centres. For that, just look it up on the internet and access the address or contact. 

How can containers be safely disposed of?

Consumers should know what are the safe disposal methods of containers. This is because the right disposal method is the bridge between the environment and degradation. 

As long as containers are disposed of in the right and educated ways, the negative impacts of containers can be deterred and avoided. 

Firstly, it must be said that before disposal, one needs to ensure that the containers can not be reused or recycled. If you think that it is better for you to dispose of containers, then you need to know in which dustbin should containers be thrown. 

As it stands out, there are three types of dustbins that are there. These are:

  • Green-coloured dustbins
  • Blue-coloured dustbins
  • Red-coloured dustbins 

As we know that both plastic and metal containers are not biodegradable, we need to dispose of them in blue-coloured dustbins. This also ensures that containers reach the recycling centres and the said advantages of recycling may be achieved. 

How can containers be reused?

A more preferred way (from disposal and recycling) is the reusing of containers. This is because by reusing containers, you are ensuring that the product is used to its full capacity. 

While the impact of recycling is reduced waste and reduced use of energy, the impact of reusing is that there is absolutely no demand for energy and production of waste here. 

When products such as containers are reused, the principles of green energy and zero waste are adhered to and complied with. 

It is claimed that plastic containers may be reused as many as 25 times before there is any tradeoff of quality. 

Therefore, let us explore some of the ways in which you can reuse contains (both plastic and metals):

  • Containers can be reused to organise materials 
  • Containers can be reused for home gardening
  • Containers can be reused for the storage of plastic bags
  • Containers can be reused for decorative purposes
  • Containers can be reused for arts and crafts
  • Containers can be reused for school assignments and projects 
  • Containers can be reused for window decorative purposes 

Conclusion

It is concluded that containers are non-biodegradable because most of the containers are made from metals and plastics. 

These materials are regarded as non-biodegradable and may require as many as five hundred years to degrade and decompose. 

It is important that containers must be thrown in blue-coloured dustbins because that is where non-biodegradable and recyclable waste is thrown. 

Recycling plastic and metal containers is not only an option but should rather be a compulsion as it leads to better waste management, decreased use of resources, and financial benefits too. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Are containers biodegradable?

Is it safe to reuse containers?

Yes, you may reuse containers several times if they are not polluted or contaminated in any way. However, it is advised that if containers are made from PET and plastic number 3 and 6, then recycling can be preferred. 

Where to dispose of containers?

Containers must be thrown in blue coloured dustbins because that is where non-biodegradable and recyclable waste is thrown

References 

  • Jacobs, J. J., Hallab, N. J., Skipor, A. K., & Urban, R. M. (2003). Metal degradation products: a cause for concern in metal-metal bearings. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research (1976-2007), 417, 139-147.
  • Tokiwa, Y., Calabia, B. P., Ugwu, C. U., & Aiba, S. (2009). Biodegradability of plastics. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(9), 3722-3742.
  • Awaja, F., & Pavel, D. (2005). Recycling of PET. European polymer journal, 41(7), 1453-1477.
  • Pradeep, L., Dash, S. P., Pati, D. J., & Boby, N. M. (2022). Determining the feasibility of using PET bottles as construction material in an urban context. Materials Today: Proceedings, 60, 384-393.

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