Is cellophane wrap biodegradable? 

The article will elucidate the biodegradability of cellophane wrap. Other covered topics would include:

  • Is cellophane wrap biodegradable?
  • Can cellophane wrap be composted?
  • How to compost cellophane wrap?
  • Can cellophane wrap be recycled?
  • Are cellophane wraps sustainable?

Is cellophane wrap biodegradable?

Cellophane wrap will be biodegradable if it is made from natural and plant-based materials. However, in the case of non-natural materials, cellophane wrap will not be biodegradable. 

As it turns out, there are two types of cellophane wraps out there. One is made from cellulose (a plant-derived material) but the other is made from plastic (called propylene). 

The former is called true cellophane as it is made from cellulose (hence the name cellulose) whereas the latter is made to look and feel like cellophane, but it is plastic instead. Hence, it is important to know the difference and choose accordingly. 

It is well-established in the literature that plastics are synthetic polymers that may remain in the system for up to a thousand years. These synthetic polymers do not offer any nutritional content that can be ingested by microbes and therefore, microbes can not break them down. 

The next question to work on is what is the time required for cellophane to be degraded by the action of microbes. When it comes to that, there are two answers. One is for natural cellophane and the other is for non-natural cellophane. 

The exact time will vary based on external conditions such as aeration, sunlight, microbes et cetera. Natural cellophane may degrade in about 30 days whereas, it may take several years for synthetic cellophane to decompose. 

How to compost cellophane wraps (if possible)?

Just like biodegradation, cellophane wraps made from natural materials can be composted but non-natural cellophane wraps can not be composted. 

When it comes to composting natural cellophane, there are two options that you may want to consider. One is to have the cellophane composted in composting centres. For this, all you have to do is to give your cellophane (and other compostable material) to these centres and the rest will be managed by them. 

However, you can also compost cellophane at home and here is how you can do that. 

How to compost natural cellophane at home? (9 steps)

Let us discuss some of the key actions and points you need to be mindful of to be able to compost natural cellophane at home. These include:

  • Start off by making sure that what you have is true cellophane made from natural materials and that there is no addition of chemicals or synthetic materials whatsoever 
  • Find a suitable location in your home that is distant from your indoors but decently accessible 
  • You can compost either openly (compost piles) or in a compost bin. Both are fine. 
  • To initiate the process, make a heap made from compostable material (including natural cellophane) 
  • Make sure to place the heap in a cool and dry place. Be sure to continuously and regularly mix it. 
  • Make sure that there is a decent ratio of brown and green matter. The brown matter will be the source of carbon whereas the green matter will be the source of nitrogen. Many suggest making the ratio 4:1. 
  • Wait and let external conditions and microbes do the work 
  • The compost must be ready in 4-8 months 
  • Once the compost is ready, be sure to utilise it well and improve the soil conditions, produce, and fertility of your backyard or field. 

Can cellophane wraps be recycled?

It is normally perceived that biodegradable materials can be recycled easily. While this may be true, it is not a necessity. 

The above statement is validated in our case as well because cellophane wraps (although biodegradable and compostable as discussed) can not be recycled which is because cellophane wraps are really thin and recycling would consume a lot of energy and resources. 

The main essence or purpose of recycling is to ensure that there is a conservation of energy, resources, and raw materials. However, recycling cellophane wraps will compromise and corrupt the said philosophy and that is why neither it is possible nor it is advisable to recycle cellophane. 

However, the tables are turned in the case of non-natural cellophane wraps made from propylene. In this case, you can have the cellophane wraps recycled at recycling facilities or by simply putting them in the trash cans (dedicated to recycling material). 

Are cellophane wraps sustainable?

Yes, cellophane wraps can be sustainable if they are made from natural and plant-derived material. That is because in this case, cellophane wraps will be biodegradable and compostable as well. 

Natural cellophane will have the following advantages over non-natural cellophane wraps:

  • Natural cellophane wrap is derived from bio-renewable material
  • Natural cellophane wrap is biodegradable 
  • You can compost wrap natural cellophane which can substitute synthetic fertilisers 
  • Natural cellophane wrap will not degrade into microplastics  
  • Natural cellophane wrap does not harm the ecosystems as is the case with synthetic cellophane 
  • Natural cellophane wrap does not require the expense of fossil fuels which release GHGs into the atmosphere
  • If ended up in landfills, natural cellophane wrap will not cause significant environmental degradation but its counterpart will be non-biodegradable while also emitting toxic fumes and materials into the environment and atmosphere 

Conclusion 

Cellophane wrap will be biodegradable if it is made from natural and plant-based materials. However, in the case of non-natural materials, cellophane wrap will not be biodegradable. 

There are two types of cellophane out there. One is made from cellulose (a plant-derived material) but the other is made from plastic (called propylene). 

The former is called true cellophane as it is made from cellulose (hence the name cellulose) whereas the latter is made to look and feel like cellophane, but it is plastic instead. Hence, it is important to know the difference and choose accordingly. 

Natural cellophane can be composted (if it is 100% natural) but you can not compost synthetic cellophane. Cellophane wraps (although biodegradable and compostable as discussed) can not be recycled which is because cellophane wraps are really thin and recycling would consume a lot of energy and resources. 

Natural cellophane is way better and more sustainable as compared to synthetic cellophane because of aspects such as pollution, degradation, and composting.

References

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