Is 50-micron plastic biodegradable? (9 effects on human health) 

This blog will explore whether 50-micron plastic is biodegradable or not. Other covered aspects will be: 

  • What is 50-micron plastic?
  • What is the damage caused by 50-micron plastic?
  • Are all plastics harmful?
  • Is 50-micron plastic biodegradable?
  • Conclusion
  • FAQs

Is 50-micron plastic biodegradable?

No, 50-micron plastic is not biodegradable. 50-micron refers to the thickness of plastic. The scale is most commonly used for plastic bags. 

If plastic bags are of increased thickness, then their quality will also be better as compared to plastics of lesser thickness. However, it should also be noted that thicker plastic bags will be more expensive as compared to thinner expensive bags. 

Micron, which is also referred to as micrometre, is a unit of length. One micron is equal to one millionth of a metre. 

Biodegradation is the breakdown of waste into simpler substances by various drivers of life. Microbes, bacteria, fungi, algae, and decomposers are the most common drivers that cause biodegradation. 

What is 50-micron plastic?

To better understand what 50-micron plastic is, it is important to be familiar with two terms. What is plastic and what is 50-micron? 

Plastics are a type of polymer. A polymer is a substance or material that is made from repeating units. The repeating units are termed monomers. 

The monomers are chemically bonded to make a polymer. Common examples of polymers may include DNA, RNA or proteins. 

When it comes to polymers, there is a general classification. This classification is based on the naturality or synthetics of the polymers. 

A polymer is naturally occurring and does not need to be devised or synthesised, it is termed a natural polymer. However, if a polymer is not occurring in nature but rather is made in the labs, then the polymers are regarded as synthetic polymers. 

Examples of natural polymers include DNA, RNA, Proteins et cetera. As per the examples of synthetic polymers, plastics are the most common examples of synthetic polymers. 

As per the type of polymers, it is generally seen that the effects of synthetic polymers are greater and more fervent on life and the environment as compared to natural polymers. Thus plastics are synthetic polymers that are made from the derivatives of fossil fuels. 

As per 50-micron, it refers to the thickness of plastic. The scale is most commonly used for plastic bags. 

If plastic bags are of increased thickness, then their quality will also be better as compared to plastics of lesser thickness. However, it should also be noted that thicker plastic bags will be more expensive as compared to thinner expensive bags. 

Micron, which is also referred to as micrometre, is a unit of length. One micron is equal to one millionth of a metre. 

What is the damage caused by 50-micron plastic? (9 effects of human health) 

The greatest tragedy that is associated with plastics is the fact that more than 40% of the plastic used is made for a single time use only. However, since most plastics are non-biodegradable, they may remain for hundreds of years. 

There are a number of environmental damages that are associated with plastics in general and 50-micron plastics as well. Other than being non-biodegradable, plastics are known to cause damage to life and the environment. 

Plastic pollution is linked with damage to marine and land species. It is estimated that more than 700 species of land have been affected by the occurrence of plastic waste. 

This is also mainly because plastic degrades into microplastics. These microplastics are present almost everywhere. These small particles may enter the fishes and animal bodies as animals may confuse these particles with food particles. This may lead to choking and even death. 

Owing to this, plastics also infiltrate into various food chains eventually ending up in our kitchens and water bottles. Plastics are also linked with countless human diseases and anomalies such as infertility, autism, cancer, reproductive issues, and neuro complications. 

There are 7 categories of plastics. 6 of them are based on fossil fuels derivatives and therefore, will have a significant impact. These can be: 

  • Global warming
  • Loss of life
  • Species endangerment
  • Unprecedented weather patterns
  • Pollution
  • Disruption of ecosystems 
  • Infiltrations into the food chains 
  • Leaching
  • Eutrophication 

This is mainly because plastics are made from products that are derived from fossil fuels. When fossil fuels are used, it results in the increased emission of greenhouse gases. 

Greenhouse gases are gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane et cetera. These gases entrap the sun’s energy and lead to a phenomenon known as global warming. 

Global warming leads to other environmental issues such as increased global temperatures, effects on life, deforestation, melting of glaciers, increased melting of glaciers, increased flooding, and unprecedented weather conditions. 

The impacts of plastics are not only limited to the environment but are also manifested in humans. Common complications that arise as a result of plastic use and exposure include: 

  • Organ damage 
  • Damage to skin 
  • Cancer 
  • Eye diseases
  • Hormonal disruption 
  • Neuro Complications 
  • Developmental issues
  • Damage to the foetus 
  • Heart & lung diseases 

Are all plastics harmful?

No, not all plastics are that harmful to the environment and human health. The seventh category of plastics includes bioplastics and DNA plastics.

Bioplastics are made from plant-based materials such as corn starch, sugarcane, sugar beets, mushrooms et cetera.

DNA plastics are made from DNA or biosources such as salmon sperm cells. 

These plastics are made from natural sources and are often renewable. Therefore, there are very minimal impacts of such plastics on health and the environment. 

To further build up our stance, let us explore some benefits and advantages exhibited by the use of DNA plastics

Plastics made from DNA come along with a number of environmental and social benefits. These are: 

  • DNA plastic takes up very less amount of energy to make
  • DNA plastic does not depend on fossil fuel derivatives
  • DNA plastic can easily be degraded by enzymes
  • DNA plastic can also be recycled with great efficiency 
  • DNA plastic does not add to waste generation and accumulation
  • DNA plastic is made from bio-renewable resources
  • DNA plastic may lead to 97% fewer carbon emissions

These are some of the reasons why it is so important to go for biodegradable and bio-renewable resources of plastics because the current waste generation caused by plastics is already beyond 90 million tons. 

Other than the issue of waste generation, conventional plastic leads to a fervent amount of carbon emissions which can be reduced by opting for natural sources instead of depending on fossil fuel derivatives. 

These bioplastics may be used for a number of applications such as the making of plastic cups et cetera. Since there are natural and biological materials involved, there are no known side effects of bioplastics.

Is 50-micron plastic biodegradable?

Biodegradability can be defined as a process in which biological agents such as enzymes and microbes break down complex waste into simpler structures. The simpler structures are thus able to get back to the system. 

Every day you come across the process of biodegradation. The rotten vegetables that you dispose of or the spoiled fruits that you think can not be eaten. These are common, everyday examples of biodegradation. 

It is the very process of biodegradation that is responsible for the spoilage of food. It can be termed the necessary evil because on one side food is spoiled but on the other side, it is ensured that there is no waste accumulation. 

If there is waste accumulation, there will be environmental problems and anomalies because the waste will lead to problems such as pollution and human diseases. 

Other than microbes and enzymes, there are also external factors that play a key role in the process of biodegradation. These include:

  • Sunlight 
  • Temperature
  • Aeration
  • Presence or absence of oxygen 
  • Type of microbes

Based on biodegradability, waste may be divided into two categories. These are 

  • Biodegradable waste
  • Non-biodegradable waste 

Examples of biodegradable waste include crops, plants, dead animals, manure, sewage, bioplastics, and natural fabrics. These may degrade in some days or some months. 

Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include synthetic plastics, epoxies, synthetic dyes, and synthetic fabrics like acrylic fabrics. These substances may remain in landfills for hundreds of years. 

For example, synthetic plastics may degrade in more than a thousand years while also causing other environmental problems such as global warming, weather anomalies et cetera. 

50-micron plastic is an example of a synthetic product and therefore it is argued that most plastic is non-biodegradable and may take up to a thousand years to degrade. However, bioplastics and DNA plastics deviate from this normality and may degrade in some years. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that 50-micron plastics are not biodegradable because they are made from fossil fuel derivatives at the expense of non-renewable resources. 

Biodegradation is the breakdown of waste into simpler substances by various drivers of life. Microbes, bacteria, fungi, algae, and decomposers are the most common drivers that cause biodegradation. 

Other important elements that are essential to the equation of biodegradability are aeration, sunlight, temperature, pressure, and other external conditions. 

Frequently Asked Questions:  Is 50-micron plastic biodegradable?

Can plastics be recycled?

Yes, plastics can be recycled. In fact, recycling is one the best solutions to deal with non-biodegradable plastics because the effects can be delayed in this way. 

What are the sources of bioplastics?

The common sources of bioplastics may include sugarcane, sugar beets, mushrooms, animals’ DNA, or mushrooms. 

References

  • Sivan, A. (2011). New perspectives in plastic biodegradation. Current opinion in biotechnology, 22(3), 422-426.
  • Zheng, Y., Yanful, E. K., & Bassi, A. S. (2005). A review of plastic waste biodegradation. Critical reviews in biotechnology, 25(4), 243-250.
  • Han, J., Guo, Y., Wang, H., Zhang, K., & Yang, D. (2021). Sustainable Bioplastic Made from Biomass DNA and Ionomers. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 143(46), 19486-19497.
  • Pastore, C. (2021). DNA plastic. Nature Nanotechnology, 16(12), 1302-1302.
  • Tokiwa, Y., Calabia, B. P., Ugwu, C. U., & Aiba, S. (2009). Biodegradability of plastics. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(9), 3722-3742.
  • Hopewell, J., Dvorak, R., & Kosior, E. (2009). Plastics recycling: challenges and opportunities. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2115-2126.
  • Gamillo, Elizabeth. (December 3, 2021). Scientists Made an Eco-Friendly Plastic Using DNA From Salmon Sperm. Retrieved from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/eco-friendly-material-made-from-salmon-sperm-may-curb-plastic-waste-180979164/

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