Is glad wrap biodegradable? (5 applications of glad wrap)

This article shall answer the question,” is glad wrap biodegradable?”.

It shall also cover other areas such as:

  • The ingredients of glad wrap.
  • The properties of glad wrap.
  • The applications of glad wrap.
  • Alternatives to glad wrap.
  • Eco-friendliness of glad wrap 

Is glad wrap biodegradable?

No, a glad wrap is not biodegradable. A glad wrap is made from synthetic plastics that are not susceptible to microbial degradation. Plastics are part of materials that take the longest time to degrade even by other agents such as UV radiation.

Biodegradation is efficient against naturally occurring, organic materials that are produced by plants and animals.

To better understand biodegradation, let’s take a quick look at the process of biodegradation.

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the process by which microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi break down organic tissue into small biomass, producing carbon dioxide, water, or methane.

Heat is also produced during the process of biodegradation and is lost to the environment. 

The main agents of biodegradation are bacteria and fungi. They break organic materials, using them as a source of carbon to make food and energy.

Microbes can use either oxygen or other chemical compounds to break down organic matter. When they use oxygen, the process is called aerobic biodegradation.

When microorganisms use any other chemical to break down organic matter instead of oxygen, the process is called anaerobic biodegradation.

The products of aerobic biodegradation are carbon dioxide and water. The products of anaerobic biodegradation are carbon dioxide and methane.

The biodegradation process occurs in three distinct stages: biodeterioration, bio-fragmentation, and finally assimilation. 

Biodeterioration is the first stage of biodegradation that involves abiotic factors such as light, UV radiation, and water to help in the weakening of the structure of organic substances.

Bio-fragmentation is the second stage that involves the physical breakdown of organic matter into small particles, this is due to the biodeterioration of the organic matter in the first stage.

The last stage involves the fungi and the bacteria breaking down the small particles into even smaller biomass, producing heat, water, carbon dioxide, and methane, with the products depending on the type of biodegradation; whether aerobic or anaerobic.

Advantages of biodegradation.

Biodegradation has several advantages which include the following:

  • It cleans the environment of the wastes.
  • Applicable to a wide range of products.
  • It can be triggered through composting
  • It is cost-effective.
  • Results to soil enrichment with nutrients.
  • Used to produce bioenergy.
  • Biodegradation through fermentation has led to the manufacturing of drugs.
  • It leads to the production of organic acids and alcohol.

Disadvantages of biodegradation.

Biodegradation has several disadvantages which include:

  • It leads to wear and tear of organic-based materials such as clothes.
  • It takes a very long time to degrade waste.
  • When used to produce bioenergy, it requires a lot of biomass.
  • It is easily affected by contaminants such as oil and antibiotics.
  • It is only limited to organic matter

What is a glad wrap?

A glad wrap also known as cling film, Saran wrap, cling wrap, food wrap, or plastic wrap is a thin film made of plastics that is used to seal food items in containers to keep them from contamination.

The thin films wrap and cling to food substances and remain tightly held over a long time, therefore keeping food items fresh.

Applications of glad wrap.

The glad wrap is used in the following ways:

  • It is used to preserve food items by tightly covering them. 

The covering preserves the food by preventing chemicals such as gases, moisture, and light from reaching the food, it also prevents aeration and penetration of microorganisms.

This extends the shelf life of food items, and also maintains their quality for a long period.

  • Glad wraps are also used to tag information on food items. Information such as the expected expiry date, name of the food item, the weight of the food item, etc.
  • The glad wrap helps in reducing food wastage by minimizing food spillage.
  • The glad wrap makes the distribution of food items easier.
  • Glad wraps can be used to wrap premature babies and may help prevent low temperatures before reaching the neonatal intensive care unit.
  • Glad wraps can be used as a first-aid dressing kit for burns.

What are the constituents of glad wrap?

The glad wrap is made from plastic materials. Different plastics can be used. They include the following:

Polyvinyl chloride.

Polyvinyl chloride is a synthetic plastic polymer. It is one of the most produced and used polymers in the world alongside polyethylene( polythene).

Polyvinyl chloride occurs in two forms.

  • Rigid PVC.
  • Soft or flexible PVC.

Rigid PVC.

This is the hard form of polyvinyl chloride polymer.

It is used to make plastic appliances such as plastic bottles, cups, plates, pipes, doors, and windows.

Flexible PVC.

This is the soft form of polyvinyl chloride.

It is acquired from rigid PVC by softening it using chemicals such as phthalates.

It is used to make insulators, signage, flooring, and leather.

PVC has a wide variety of uses, but the main challenge is that it is non-biodegradable and hence it pollutes the water bodies and soil.

PVC is used in glad wraps because it has low permeability to water vapor and oxygen, therefore keeping the food products fresh.

Low-density polyethylene.

This is a thermoplastic polymer of ethylene. It was the first polyethylene plastic to be synthesized.

Properties of low-density polyethylene.

The following are the properties of low-density polyethylene.

  • It is inert at room temperature.
  • It is affected by strong solvents.
  • It can withstand slightly high temperatures.
  • It is tough.
  • It is flexible.
  • It is less crystalline.
  • It has a low tensile strength.
  • It produces greenhouse gases methane and ethylene.
  • It easily breaks down as compared to other plastics.

Uses of low-density polyethylene.

The following are the uses of low-density polyethylene.

  • In making packaging foams.
  • In making plastic bowls.
  • In making plastic bottles.
  • In making plastic tubes.
  • Making plastic components of the computer.
  • Making plastic laboratory equipment.
  • Making plastic paper bags.
  • Making plastic trays.

Low-density polyethylene has less adhesive properties, although this can be addressed by adding linear low-density polyethylene.

Linear low-density polyethylene is different from low-density polyethylene because it has shorter linear chains and fewer impurities.

Polyvinylidene chloride.

This is a homopolymer of vinylidene chloride molecules.

The molecule contains a high degree of impermeability against oxygen, water, and aromas. 

It is highly resistant to alkalis and acids. The molecule is insoluble in organic solvents and oil. It has low moisture regain capabilities and is impervious to microorganisms such as bacteria, mold, and insects.

It is soluble in polar solvents. It decomposes at temperatures above 125⁰ Celsius to release HCl.

Polyvinylidene is popularly used in food packaging as a wrap.

What are the alternatives to glad wraps?

There are alternatives to glad wraps, depending on the user’s preference and suitability to the environment.

According to a study, the following materials can be used in place of glad wraps.

  • Beeswax wraps: they can be used to wrap sandwiches, cover leftovers, and make pouches for crisps or chopped vegetables.
  • Cotton sandwich wraps: they are made from cotton and therefore are biodegradable. They can be used to cover food items in a freezer.
  • Agreena 3-in-1 wrap: these are made of food-grade silicone. They can be washed, reused, and recycled.
  • Aluminum foil: these are readily available, and are easy to reuse and recycle. There are fewer pollutants than plastics.
  • Tupperware: Tupperware is made of plastics just like glad wraps. But they can be used several times, unlike glad wrap, and they are therefore more sustainable.

Is glad wrap eco-friendly?

No, a glad wrap is made from non-biodegradable plastic materials. The wrap wastes do not decompose and therefore result in landfills.

Microplastics from glad wrap can find their way into the water systems, and upon ingestion by the aquatic animals, they can cause hormonal irregularities.

Is glad wrap toxic?

Yes, several pieces of research have shown that glad wraps contain some degree of toxicity. The plastics from which glad wrap is made contain plasticizers and microplastics that leach into food items. These chemicals can cause serious health problems in humans.

Burning of glad wraps emits toxic fumes such as chlorine from polyvinyl chloride. These gases can cause respiratory problems. They also cause eye and skin irritation.

Conclusion.

This article has answered the question of the biodegradability of glad ware.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Ingredients of glad wrap.
  • Properties and uses of glad wrap.
  • Alternative films to glad wraps.
  • Eco-friendliness and toxicity of glad wrap.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is glad wrap biodegradable?

Does cling wrap biodegrade?

No, cling wrap is made from plastics such as polyvinyl chloride and low-density polyethylene. These plastics are non-biodegradable.

Is plastic wrap good for the environment?

No, plastic wraps are non-biodegradable and non-reusable. Their wastes accumulate in landfills and water bodies causing pollution.

What is the difference between cling wrap and glad wrap?

There is no difference between the two. Cling wrap and glad wrap are words used to mean the same thing; a thin plastic film used to cover food items to keep them fresh. 

Other names are a plastic wrap, Saran wrap, and cling film.

Citations.

Krishnaswamy, Rajendra K.; Lamborn, Mark J. (2000). “Tensile properties of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) blown films”. Polymer Engineering & Science. 40 (11): 2385–2396. doi:10.1002/pen.11370

Marsh, Kenneth; Bugusu, Betty (2007). “Food Packaging—Roles, Materials, and Environmental Issues”. Journal of Food Science. 72 (3): R39–R55. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00301

Meadows, Michelle (2002). “Plastics and the Microwave”. FDA Consumer. 36 (6): 30. doi:10.1037/e542632006-006. 

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