Is number 5 plastic biodegradable? (5 properties) 

The article will unveil whether plastic number 5 is biodegradable or not. Other covered aspects will be: 

  • Why are different numbers given to plastics?
  • What is number 5 plastic?
  • What are the types of plastics?
  • What are the effects of plastics?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Is number 5 plastic biodegradable?
  • Is number 5 plastic recyclable?
  • FAQs

Is number 5 plastic biodegradable?

No, plastic number 5 is not biodegradable. Plastic number 5 is called propylene which is used mostly in plastic bottles and disposable food packaging. 

Polypropylene is also a fossil fuel derivative and therefore it is not biodegradable. It may take more than 20 years to degrade PP which is a lot. 

Plastics are given different numbers (1 to 7) so that they may be characterised and labelled on the basis of their properties and impacts. Also, so that consumers can make safer and sustainable choices. 

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. 

Why are different numbers given to plastics?

Before details on the number 5 plastic are disclosed, it is essential to know why different numbers are given to plastics. 

The primary reason behind the numbering system is to disclose the nature and real story associated with plastics. 

Not all plastics are great for the environment and human health. Some plastics are more harmful to human health while some plastics are not reusable at all. 

Therefore, it is important to know as a consumer and a manufacturer what kind of plastics is and can be used to make different products so that sustainable choices can be made. 

The different numbers are labelled in triangles that are made out of arrows. You can find these labels on plastic products. 

For example, let us say that you have to shop for a plastic bottle. You get to the store and see different plastic bottles. Some are labelled with 1, some with 3 and some with 5. 

These labels are to let you make conscious choices because with little awareness it is easy to know that label 1 means that the bottles are made from PET. 

However, labels 3 and 5 imply that bottles are made from PVC and PP respectively. The last two are not recyclable and hence will become non-biodegradable waste eventually. 

However, PET is regarded as a safer option and it can also be recycled. Hence, it falls upon you as a consumer to know which bottle to choose (by digging into the type of plastic used for it and its impact on the environment and human health). 

What is number 5 plastic? (5 properties)

Number 5 plastic refers to PP which expands to polypropylene. The qualities of PP are: 

  • Mechanical strength
  • Heat resistant
  • Lightweight 
  • Effective barrier against chemicals
  • Resistant to moisture and grease  

Due to these properties, PP is mostly used in products such as: 

  • Straws 
  • Containers
  • Bags
  • Rope
  • Bottle 
  • Diapers
  • Pails
  • Disposable food packaging material 
  • Cereal boxes 

Like other plastics, PP is also reusable and recyclable. It is also considered safe to be used and reused and that is why it is used for food packaging as well. 

However, it is claimed that despite being recyclable, less than 3% of the PP is recycled in the US. This means that more than 97% of the PP ends up in the waste streams and landfills as non-biodegradable waste where it may remain for hundreds of years. 

In light of the above fact, it is suggested that alternates of PP be preferred such as PET which is considered safer and more recyclable. 

What are the types of plastics? 

Plastics are found everywhere. Most commercial consumer products make use of plastics because of the utilitarian value given off by plastics. 

It is argued that the common use of plastics is because of the fact that plastics are cheap yet this does not affect the usability factor rendered by plastics. 

Owing to the diverse use and applications of plastics, there are seven categories of plastics. The categories are there so that plastics may be segregated and studied well. The categories of plastics are: 

  • PET 
  • HDPE
  • LDPE
  • PP
  • PVC
  • PS
  • Other

These categories link to the discrete use and qualities of plastics. You may wonder what is the last category of plastics. This category is reserved for new types of plastics. 

Common examples of the seventh category can be DNA plastics and bioplastics. These will also be detailed in the coming sections of the article.

Among the remaining categories, it is generally regarded that HDPE, PP, and PET are relatively safer and do not make use of harmful chemicals and materials. 

However, this is not the case for the remaining categories. There may be harmful chemicals or elements used to make such plastics (for example LDPE). An example can be BPA.

Bisphenol-A is an organic compound which is thought to disrupt hormones and cause other medical complications such as cancer or irritations. 

Among the types of plastics, the seventh category is regarded as the safest and the least damaging to the environment. This is mainly because plastics in the seventh category are made from natural, plant-based materials rather than fossil fuel derivatives. 

What are the effects of plastic?

The following are the impacts caused by conventional plastics on life and the environment. 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 

What is biodegradability?

It 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. 

Recent approaches to biodegradation have also enabled scientists to employ lab-based enzymes and chemicals to achieve the process of biodegradation. 

You may wonder why biodegradation is essential. It is important because it leads to reduced waste generation and accumulation. 

This ensures that life and the environment are saved from the harmful and degradative effects of biodegradation. This will also enable better waste management because if waste management is facilitated, there will be decreased consumption of energy and resources. 

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 number 5 plastic biodegradable?

It can be said that for a product to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural sources rather than non-natural sources. 

Common examples of materials that are biodegradable include plant waste, animal waste, natural fabrics et cetera. 

However, it has been detailed that most plastics are not made from natural sources. They are made from fossil fuel derivatives and are synthesised in the lab. 

Polypropylene is also a fossil fuel derivative and therefore it is not biodegradable. It may take more than 20 years to degrade PP which is a lot. 

Is number 5 plastic recyclable?

Recycling is a process of reusing materials and products by making certain changes to them. 

It is a great way to ensure that there is less waste generation and that the world is saved from the detrimental impacts of non-biodegradable waste. 

Recycling adheres to the 3R approach boosted by scientists and environmentalists. It also prostrates the philosophies of sustainability and SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)

Recycling comes along the following key benefits: 

  • Better waste management
  • Better resource management
  • Conservation of natural and non-renewable resources
  • The best alternative to non-biodegradable material
  • A cost-efficient way to deal with waste

Like other plastics, PP is also reusable and recyclable. It is also considered safe to be used and reused and that is why it is used for food packaging as well. 

However, it is claimed that despite being recyclable, less than 3% of the PP is recycled in the US. This means that more than 97% of the PP ends up in the waste streams and landfills as non-biodegradable waste where it may remain for hundreds of years. 

In light of the above fact, it is suggested that alternates of PP be preferred such as PET which is considered safer and more recyclable. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that plastics are given different numbers (1 to 7) so that they may be characterised and labelled on the basis of their properties and impacts. Also, so that consumers can make safer and sustainable choices. 

Plastic number 5 is called propylene which is used mostly in plastic bottles and disposable food packaging. 

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. 

It can be said that for a product to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural sources rather than non-natural sources. 

Polypropylene is also a fossil fuel derivative and therefore it is not biodegradable. It may take more than 20 years to degrade PP which is a lot. 

PP is also reusable and recyclable. However, it is claimed that despite being recyclable, less than 3% of the PP is recycled in the US. This means that more than 97% of the PP ends up in the waste streams and landfills as non-biodegradable waste where it may remain for hundreds of years. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is number 5 plastic biodegradable?

How long does PP take to degrade?

Polypropylene is also a fossil fuel derivative and therefore it is not biodegradable. It may take more than 20 years to degrade

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.
  • Chamas, A., Moon, H., Zheng, J., Qiu, Y., Tabassum, T., Jang, J. H., … & Suh, S. (2020). Degradation rates of plastics in the environment. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 8(9), 3494-3511.

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