Is chocolate biodegradable? (5 ingredients) 

This article will shed light on the biodegradability status of chocolates. Other aspects covered would be: 

  • What is chocolate made of?
  • What is food waste?
  • What is the environmental impact of chocolate?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Is chocolate biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Is chocolate biodegradable?

Chocolate is biodegradable because it is made of plant-based materials. It is a widely accepted food product. 

There are three types of chocolates namely dark, milk and white chocolate. Other than cocoa, there may also be additional ingredients in chocolates that may include sugar, milk powder, lecithin, and cocoa liquor. 

Although chocolate is sourced from plants, there are environmental impacts of chocolate because it is responsible for the illegal farming of cocoa. This leads to environmental problems such as deforestation and child labour. 

When trees are cut, there are excessive impacts on the environment because carbon dioxide is not retained. This results i

What is chocolate made of? (5 ingredients) 

The assessment of the ingredients of chocolate is very important in determining the environmental impact that is rendered by any consumer product. 

Therefore, this article will first commence by explaining and understanding the major ingredients that are used to make chocolates because it will give an educated guess of what the environmental impact of chocolates can be. 

For example, if any product is made from synthetic materials then its environmental impact will be more than compared of a product which is made from natural materials. 

Conventional plastics are made from derivatives of fossil fuels. These plastics have an increased impact on the environment and also on human health. These may include global warming, deforestation, pollution, ozone depletion et cetera. 

However, if we consider the case of bioplastics, then these plastics are made from natural, plant-based sources. These plastics have very few impacts on the environment and the people given the context of conventional plastics. 

Thus, reclining back to our main topic, chocolates are made from the fruits of cacao trees. It can be said that the source of chocolates is trees. 

Because we know that chocolate is extracted from plant sources, it is not hard to guess that there will be fewer impacts of chocolate on the environment and the people. However, the ground reality of this statement will be assessed in the next sections. 

The main ingredients that are used in most of the chocolates include: 

  • Cocoa
  • Sugar
  • Lecithin
  • Cocoa liquor
  • Milk powder

As per the addition of flavours, it is argued that dark chocolate contains the least amount of additives and flavours whereas, white chocolate has the most amount of flavours and added ingredients. 

There are usually three types of chocolates: 

  • Dark chocolate
  • White chocolate 
  • Milk chocolate

These three types vary based on the taste preference of the consumers. Those who like and prefer the genuine taste of cocoa, like to eat dark chocolate whereas, those who like it less bitter and sweet usually go for white chocolate. 

It is argued milk chocolate is the most common type of chocolate and is most liked by consumers. 

What is food waste?

This section will give an insight into what food waste is. By definition, food waste is food that is wasted and does not reach the consumer. 

The term food waste is very similar to food loss. However, there are some stark differences between the two. 

Food waste refers to the food that is wasted after it has been processed and prepared. For example, the food that you leave on your plate when discarded will be counted as food waste. 

However, food loss is the loss that happens before food reaches the consumer. For example, consider owing to a natural catastrophe, if crops are wasted then it will be categorised as food loss.

The main issue with food waste is that it puts pressure on food production processes. When an excess amount of food is wasted, it will lead to increased production of food, 

This will have certain consequences. One is that there will be excessive pressure on the source of food (which is fruits, trees or plants) and the other is that this pressure may be met with the use of agrochemicals. 

These agrochemicals may include fertilisers and pesticides. These chemical-based pesticides may lead to environmental and health-related anomalies. 

What is the environmental impact of chocolate production?

This section will cover and highlight the impacts rendered by the production of chocolates. Perhaps the biggest impact on chocolate production is the factor of deforestation. 

It is argued that more than 70% of America’s deforestation is due to cocoa farming. This is largely because of the increased demand for cocoa. 

The overall consumption of cocoa is about 7 million metric tons. That is why this demand is met with illegal farming of cocoa which leads to the cutting of trees and deforestation. 

Another factor that somewhat exacerbates the situation is the fact the growth of cocoa is very slow. This also worsens the situation leading to more pressure on the production of chocolate from cocoa. 

Trees are essential entities that save us from environmental anomalies and play their part in the sustainability and maintaining the greenness of the environment.

If there will be excessive tree cutting, there will be negative impacts on the environment including soil erosion, destruction of habitats, and disruption of ecosystems. Trees are the primary producers. They are the starting points of food webs and food chains. 

If trees are cut in grave amounts, there will be effects reciprocated at various levels of food chains. 

With decreased amounts of trees, there will be an increased release of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide. This is because plants and trees take up carbon and convert it into oxygen. This saves our atmosphere from a couple of environmental anomalies. 

When there are fewer trees, there will be a more polluted atmosphere due to carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is regarded as a greenhouse gas. This is because it leads to a phenomenon that is termed global warming. 

Global warming, as the name suggests, leads to increased global temperatures. This, in turn, gives rise to a plethora of other anomalies as well. These can be summarised into: 

  • Floods 
  • Disruption of ecosystems 
  • Destruction of habitats
  • Unprecedented weather patterns 
  • Financial losses
  • Increased melting of glaciers
  • Soil erosion
  • Deforestation
  • Acid rain
  • Ozone depletion
  • Droughts
  • Substantial losses

What is biodegradability?

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. 

There are many examples of biodegradation that you come by every day. The most common example will be the spoilage of food or rotten vegetables. It is the microbes in action. 

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 aeration, sunlight, temperature, pressure, et cetera. 

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.

Is chocolate biodegradable?

Based on our current understanding, it is very possible to build up a stance on the biodegradability of chocolate. 

It has been seen that biodegradability is the breakdown of waste into simpler materials by the action of microbes and enzymes. 

The general rule of thumb with biodegradability is that natural materials are biodegradable whereas non-natural materials are generally not biodegradable. 

We have seen that chocolate is a type of food which is extracted from cocoa plants. Since the source of chocolate is natural, it is biodegradable. 

Conclusion 

It is concluded that chocolate is biodegradable because it is made of plant-based materials. It is a widely accepted food product. 

There are three types of chocolates namely dark, milk and white chocolate. Other than cocoa, there may also be additional ingredients in chocolates that may include sugar, milk powder, lecithin, and cocoa liquor. 

Although chocolate is sourced from plants, there are environmental impacts of chocolate because it is responsible for the illegal farming of cocoa. This leads to environmental problems such as deforestation and child labour. 

When trees are cut, there are excessive impacts on the environment because carbon dioxide is not retained. This results in a global increase in the temperature leading to global warming and related anomalies. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is chocolate biodegradable?

What is the most common ingredient in chocolate?

Cocoa is the most common ingredient in chocolates. Other than cocoa, there may also be additional ingredients in chocolates that may include sugar, milk powder, lecithin, and cocoa liquor. 

Where is most chocolate sourced from?

Most of the chocolate is sourced from Africa. More than 70% of the overall cocoa is made in West Africa. 

References 

  • WWF. Bittersweet: chocolate’s impact on the environment. Retrieved from: https://www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/spring-2017/articles/bittersweet-chocolate-s-impact-on-the-environment
  • Bruinsma, K., & Taren, D. L. (1999). Chocolate: food or drug? Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99(10), 1249-1256.
  • Beckett, S. T. (2019). The science of chocolate. Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Afoakwa, E. O. (2016). Chocolate science and technology. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Girotto, F., Alibardi, L., & Cossu, R. (2015). Food waste generation and industrial uses: A review. Waste management, 45, 32-41.

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