Is BPA-free plastic biodegradable? (7 effects of BPA on health) 

In this article, the biodegradability of BPA-free plastic will be taken into account. Other covered topics would include: 

  • What is BPA-free plastic?
  • What is plastic?
  • What are the types of plastic?
  • What is biodegradable?
  • What are some examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste?
  • Is BPA-free plastic biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Is BPA-free plastic biodegradable?

Yes, BPA-free plastic is biodegradable if it is bioplastic. However, not all BPA-free plastic is biodegradable. 

BPA (Bisphenol A) is an organic compound found in many plastics commercially available. It is known to cause medical complications such as hormonal disruption and behavioural changes. 

Bioplastics which do not contain BPA are biodegradable but not all BPA-free plastic is biodegradable.

Other types of plastics such as PET or LDPE may also be BPA-free. However, these types are not biodegradable because they are synthesised from petroleum-based products. 

What is BPA-free plastic? (7 effects of BPA) 

BPA-free plastic is a plastic which does not contain a compound called Bisphenol-A. You may wonder what is the deal with BPA. 

BPA, expanded into Bisphenol A, is an organic compound which is known to cause many harmful impacts on human health as well as the environment. 

BPA has been in use since the 1950s and is found in a number of commercial products such as plastics and epoxy resins. However, with the increased awareness of possible side effects of BPA, its use is avoided and not recommended. 

The following are the negative impacts of BPA on human health: 

  • Behavioural anomalies
  • Damage to foetus
  • Diabetes
  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Hormone disruptions 
  • Neurological effects 

What is plastic?

Plastic is a polymer which is made from repeating units (monomers) and these monomers are linked with chemical bonds. 

Plastic is found everywhere these days. From the packaging material to plastic bottles to furniture items, and decoration material. Chances are that plastic is present in the majority of the stuff that you own. 

In order to get a better grasp of what plastic is, it is essential to know the science of polymers. The word polymer is supposed to be derived from the Greek language which means many parts.

Polymers are made up of small repeating units. These small repeating units are termed monomers. Monomers are held together by chemical bonds.

Polymers can be classified into two groups. These can be natural and synthetic. As the name suggests, natural polymers are found in nature. There is no need to synthesise them in any way. Whereas, synthetic polymers, on the other hand, are synthesised in the lab.

Natural polymers are those polymers found in nature. It can be said that nature is the scientist that made these polymers and quite a magnificent one. Examples of these polymers can be: 

  • Wool
  • Carbohydrates
  • DNA
  • Protein
  • Cellulose
  • Silk
  • Chiton

These natural polymers adhere to nature’s ways and thus pose no great threats to nature and the environment. However, there are some factors that may change this proclivity. 

As per synthetic polymers, these polymers are synthesised in the lab. These synthetic polymers are created by man and the rule of thumb is that most of them do not really adhere to nature’s ways. Examples of these polymers may be: 

  • Teflon
  • Dyneema
  • Nylon
  • PVC
  • Polyethylene
  • Polyester
  • Epoxy

What are the types of plastics?

To better grasp the issue at hand, it is essential that the various types of plastics be explored. It will assist in building a stance later on.

As per the types of plastics, there are 7 classes of plastics that are done based on their formation and uses. 

The first category of plastics is called PET which expands to polyethylene terephthalate. This type of plastic is usually lucid in colour and is found in disposable beverages, food containers and bottles. Since our subject is plastic bottles, this is the type of plastic we will be getting into more detail about. 

The second category of plastic is called HDPE which expands into high-density polyethylene. It is mostly opaque in appearance and is used widely in juice bottles, detergents, and toiletries containers. This type is considered safe for humans in terms of exposure but it is unsafe for the environment. 

The third category is called PVC which expands to Polyvinyl Chloride. This type of plastic is mostly used in applications such as food wraps, cooking oil bottles and plumbing pipes. PVC contains BPA and phthalates. 

These chemicals are known to cause harm to humans by disrupting the hormonal patterns while also being carcinogenic in nature. The constituents of PVC are also quite harmful to the environment as they may leach into the ground and cause toxicity and pollution. 

The fourth category of plastic is called LDPE which can be expanded into low-density polyethylene. The common applications of this type of plastic are food warps, grocery bags et cetera. This is relatively safer in the context of HDPE for human health. 

Next in line, we have polypropylene. This type of plastic is termed microwave safe because of its heat resistance properties. Therefore, it is most commonly used in kitchenware. However, even though it is heat resistant. Its use must be limited or else there could be medical complications. 

The sixth type of plastic is polystyrene which is also known as styrofoam. This type of plastic is renowned for packaging materials and disposable containers. However, it is deemed very unsafe to both humans and the environment and its use must be avoided to the best. 

The last category of plastic is called new plastic or contemporary plastic. It included all the new plastics that are synthesised in the market. It may include plastics that contain harmful chemicals like BPA and may also include bioplastics that are both degradable and relatively safer for the environment. 

What is biodegradable?

A waste is termed biodegradable when it can degrade in a natural setting or artificial setting (landfills et cetera) by the action of microbes. 

That is why this degradation is termed bio-degradation. ‘Bio’ here means life and ‘degradation’ refers to breakdown. 

Biodegradability is the process through which waste is broken down by the action of microbes so that it can become a part of nature again. The microbes that are responsible for this breakdown may be bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, yeast, and decomposers. Below are some examples of such organisms: 

  • Pseudomonas fluorescens
  • Bacillus vallismortis bt-dsce01
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae CH001
  • Aspergillus oryzae strain A5
  • Sphingobacterium sp
  • Bacillus sp.
  • Xanthomonas sp.

Microbes are, therefore, involved in the reduction of waste. It is added in the basic code of mother nature to avoid waste formation and accumulation because mother nature knows that if waste is generated and accumulated, there will be great problems to deal with. 

That is why biodegradability is so protected and highly regarded. It is very essential because it ensures that the waste produced gets back to the system in a cyclical fashion and does not cause any anomalies. 

However, man is notoriously known to corrupt the basic codes of nature. For example, the environmental problems that man brought outweigh all the anomalies that have happened until now, however, man’s arrival on this planet as a species is very short. 

 It is regarded that most of the man-made materials which are synthesised in the lab can not degrade by the action of microbes. This is because microbes are unable to break down the inner structures of complex waste. 

Result? The waste created by man may remain in the environment for many hundred years. If waste remains this long, environmental and human problems are sure to come. 

Non-biodegradable waste is known to cause a lot of harm to nature and man, other than being non-biodegradable. There is an endless list of these effects but some prominent ones can be cited as examples. 

  • Greenhouse effect
  • Global warming
  • Deforestation
  • Soil leaching
  • Pollution
  • Soil erosion 
  • Destruction of habitats
  • Disruption of food chains
  • Species endangerment 
  • Loss of life 
  • Medical complications
  • Harm to the economy
  • Unforeseen and unprecedented climatic anomalies 
  • Pest & insect attacks 

What are some examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste?

Biodegradable waste is that waste can be degraded by the action of microbes. This type of waste may degrade readily or may also take some months. 

As per some studies, biodegradable waste (like bio-plastics) may even take some years to degrade. Examples of biodegradable waste include: 

  • Food waste
  • Plant waste
  • Animal waste
  • Manure
  • Sewage 
  • Crop waste
  • Waste from slaughterhouse 
  • Natural fibres

Non-biodegradable waste, on the other hand, can not be degraded by the action of microbes. It is mainly because microbes cannot break the structures of this type of waste. 

It is generally perceived that materials that are synthesised in the lab from petroleum or fossil fuels are not biodegradable. 

Synthetic polymers are regarded as the most common non-biodegradable waste. Other examples may include: 

  • Electronic waste
  • Plastics 
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
  • Hospital waste 
  • Synthetic resins
  • Synthetic fibres
  • Nuclear waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Chemical waste

Is BPA-free plastic biodegradable?

Based on the details covered by now, it can be assumed that for waste to be biodegradable, it must contain natural materials. 

The various types of plastics have also been discussed and it is also seen that out of the seven types, only one type of plastic is biodegradable because it is made from plant-based materials.

It is also seen that biodegradable plastics or bioplastics do not contain BPA. Therefore, in one way, it can be said that BPA-free plastic is biodegradable. 

However, it is also seen that other types of plastics such as PET or LDPE may also be BPA-free. However, these types are not biodegradable because they are synthesised from petroleum-based products. 

Therefore, it can be summed up that not all BPA-free plastic is biodegradable. However, bioplastics which are also BPA-free are indeed biodegradable. 

Conclusion

It can be concluded that BPA (Bisphenol A) is an organic compound found in many plastics commercially available. It is known to cause medical complications such as hormonal disruption and behavioural changes. 

Bioplastics which do not contain BPA are biodegradable but not all BPA-free plastic is biodegradable.

Other types of plastics such as PET or LDPE may also be BPA-free. However, these types are not biodegradable because they are synthesised from petroleum-based products. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is BPA-free plastic biodegradable?

Why is BPA a concern?

BPA is a concern because it may cause hormonal changes, psychological issues, neuro complications, and cardiovascular anomalies in humans. 

What does BPA mean?

It is an organic compound used in epoxies and plastics. It expands to Bisphenol-A. 

References 

  • Atiwesh, G., Mikhael, A., Parrish, C. C., Banoub, J., & Le, T. A. T. (2021). Environmental impact of bioplastic use: A review. Heliyon, 7(9), e07918.
  • Landrock, A. H. (1995). Handbook of plastic foams: types, properties, manufacture and applications. Elsevier.
  • Zheng, Y., Yanful, E. K., & Bassi, A. S. (2005). A review of plastic waste biodegradation. Critical reviews in biotechnology, 25(4), 243-250.

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Comment