What are biodegradable bin liners? (7 advantages of bioplastics)

This article will introduce what biodegradable bin liners are and what they are made of. Other covered aspects will be: 

  • What are bin liners?
  • What are the effects of non-biodegradable materials?
  • What are biodegradable bin liners?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Can biodegradable bin liners be composted?
  • Conclusion 
  • FAQs

What are biodegradable bin liners?

Biodegradable bin liners are created from biorenewable sources such as plants or DNA sources. These liners are indeed biodegradable as compared to its counterpart.

Conventional bin liners are made from polyethylene polymer which may cause environmental degradation in the form of pollution, waste accumulation, landscape disfigurement, and loss of life. 

Furthermore, biodegradable bin liners can also be composted and thus be used as a natural fertiliser because these bin liners are considered non-toxic and have organic content in them. 

What are bin liners?

As per the definition, a bin liner is a plastic bag that is used to keep and dispose of trash. It can be said to be a disposable plastic bag which is also known as a rubbish bag, garbage bag, or trash bag. 

The primary function of bin liners is to collect waste so that the waste may be disposed of along with the bin liners. After that, a new bin liner can be used for trash bins. 

As said, plastic is the primary material that is used for the making of bin liners. However, you may wonder that there are various types of plastics, which plastic is used for bin liners. 

It is stated that most of the bin liners are made from polyethylene. Polyethylene is a polymer of ethylene. The monomers (ethylene) are bonded with chemical bonds to make a polymer. 

The word polymer is derived from Greek origin which means many parts. Usually, in the case of polymers, there are two types of polymers that are commonly used. These include natural and synthetic polymers. 

Natural polymers are sourced from nature. Common examples may include DNA, RNA or proteins. Since these polymers are sourced from nature, there are minimal impacts of natural polymers on the environment. 

However, sadly, this is not the case for synthetic polymers. Synthetic polymers are mostly made from the derivatives of fossil fuels. These have significant negative impacts on the environment. 

Polyethylene is a synthetic polymer which means that it will cause significant environmental complications that must be addressed; otherwise, there will be a lot of negative environmental anomalies. 

Polyethylene, like other synthetic polymers, is regarded as non-biodegradable and will cause a number of environmental issues other than persisting in the environment for a very long time. 

These negative effects rendered by non-biodegradable products will be shed light upon in the next section. 

What are the effects of non-biodegradable materials?

This section will cover the impacts and effects rendered by non-biodegradable waste. This will also plead for the case of importance and urgency of biodegradable waste. 

The biggest harm that is caused by non-biodegradable waste is the fact that it adds to waste generation and waste accumulation. When waste is accumulated and generated in excess amounts, it leads to the decapacitation of waste management systems.

If we are not able to properly manage and segregate waste, then their impacts will be translated and reciprocated in every aspect, domain, and level of life and the environment. 

This is mainly because the waste will cause pollution and environmental degradation. The effects of waste on animals and humans can also not be ignored. 

To further assert this, consider the case of non-biodegradable plastics. Plastic waste is regarded as non-biodegradable. Even though there are many measures taken to ensure that plastic waste is either reused or disposed of properly; regardless of it, plastic waste affects more than 700 species on land. 

Now imagine what will happen if those preventive measures fail. The whole world will be faced with an irreversible catastrophe. The accumulated waste will make the whole Earth a huge dustbin. 

Another major impact that is caused and rendered by non-biodegradable waste is the emissions of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, ethylene, SOx, and NOx are responsible for a plethora of environmental anomalies. 

When non-biodegradable waste is produced and processed, there is the usage of non-renewable resources and products from fossil fuels. This leads to the burning of fossil fuels that adds GHGs to the environment. 

The most catastrophic effect rendered by the GHGs is the phenomenon of global warming. Global warming leads to another set of various environmental problems such as:

  • Melting of glaciers
  • Rising sea levels
  • Increased global temperatures
  • Unforeseen weather patterns
  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • Deforestation
  • Pollution
  • Disruption of ecosystems
  • Destruction of habitats
  • Loss of life
  • Endangerment of species 
  • Infiltrations into the food chains 
  • Degradation of air quality
  • Smog 
  • Acid rains 
  • Acidification of water bodies
  • Damage to crops
  • Infertility of soil
  • Waste accumulation 

The effects of non-biodegradable waste, such as chemical waste, are not just limited to animal species and the environment. Humans are also directly and immensely impacted by the occurrence of non-biodegradable waste. 

Non-biodegradable waste is responsible for a plethora of human-related problems and diseases. Some of them can be mentioned as an example:

  • Cancer
  • Neuro complications
  • Neuro toxicity 
  • Developmental issues
  • Hormone disruption
  • Damage to children
  • Lung cancer 
  • Skin problems 
  • Nephrological complications 
  • Autism
  • Infertility 
  • Behavioural problems 

What are biodegradable bin liners? (7 advantages of bioplastics) 

Taking into consideration the detrimental impacts caused by non-biodegradable polymers such as polyethylene, the recent advances in technology has enabled us to alleviate this issue. 

With the rising awareness and concern toward the environment and sustainability, there have been a number of endeavours to attempt to undo the negative effects of non-biodegradable materials. 

One such endeavour is the formation of bioplastics. Bioplastics or biodegradable plastics are plastics that are created from natural sources rather than non-natural sources. Another such endeavour is DNA plastic. 

Bioplastics are made from plant-based materials such as corn starch, sugarcane, sugar beets, mushrooms et cetera.

DNA plastics are made from DNA or biosources such as salmon sperm cells. 

These plastics are made from natural sources and are often renewable. Therefore, there are very minimal impacts of such plastics on health and the environment. 

  • Bioplastic takes up very less amount of energy to make
  • Bioplastic does not depend on fossil fuel derivatives
  • Bioplastic can easily be degraded by enzymes
  • Bioplastic can also be recycled with great efficiency 
  • Bioplastic does not add to waste generation and accumulation
  • Bioplastic is made from bio-renewable resources
  • Bioplastic may lead to 97% fewer carbon emissions

These are some reasons why it is so important to go for biodegradable and bio-renewable resources of plastics because the current waste generation caused by plastics is already over 90 million tons. 

Other than the issue of waste generation, conventional plastic leads to a fervent amount of carbon emissions which can be reduced by opting for natural sources instead of depending on fossil fuel derivatives. 

These bioplastics may be used for a number of applications such as the making of plastic cups et cetera. Since there are natural and biological materials involved, there are no known side effects of bioplastics.

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability is defined as the process of breakdown of waste into simpler products by the action of microbes and enzymes. The term biodegradability is coined from two terms. These are bio and degradation. 

Bio means life and degradation means the breakdown into simpler materials. This breakdown is very essential because it is a parameter to ensure that there is no waste generation and no waste accumulation. 

If there is waste accumulation, pollution and natural habitats will be disrupted. A common example of biodegradation can be the spoilage of food or rotting vegetables. 

Biodegradability can also be analogised to the Earth’s dustbin because it is a process to treat and segregate waste. Biodegradability ensures that the waste gets back to the system and is properly utilised. 

However, not all waste is biodegradable. When it comes to biodegradability, there are two types of waste that are present. These include biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. 

Biodegradable waste is the type of waste which can be degraded by the action of microbes and enzymes over a short period of time. Regarding this type, there is a general rule of thumb that biodegradable waste is mostly sourced from natural sources. 

Examples of biodegradable waste include plant waste, animal waste, sewage, manure, waste from slaughterhouses et cetera. 

Next, we have non-biodegradable waste. This type of waste is mostly sourced from non-natural sources such as the products of fossil fuels. This type of waste won’t degrade readily by the action of microbes. 

It is claimed that this type of waste may require even a thousand years to degrade. Therefore, it will lead to waste accumulation and negative impacts. Because of this, non-biodegradable waste is of more significant concern to environmentalists as compared to biodegradable waste. 

Examples of non-biodegradable waste include synthetic plastics, synthetic fibres, epoxies, hazardous waste, nuclear waste, electronic waste et cetera. 

Can biodegradable bin liners be composted?

Composting is a process of making waste to compost. It is dead organic matter which can be used as a natural fertiliser to: 

  • Improve the fertility of the soil
  • Improve the water retention profile of the soil
  • Improve the crops yield 
  • Better resource management 
  • Improved economy and less financial and substantial losses
  • Avoidance of negative impacts of synthetic fertilisers 

However, not all materials can be composted. There are certain conditions that have to be met. These include: 

  • The material must be non-toxic
  • The material must be natural
  • The material must have organic content in it

Since biodegradable bin liners are obtained from plant sources, it does adhere to the requirements. Therefore, biodegradable bin liners can be composted and thus used as a natural fertiliser. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that conventional bin liners are made from polyethylene polymer which may cause environmental degradation in the form of pollution, waste accumulation, landscape disfigurement, and loss of life. 

As a result, there are biodegradable bin liners that are created from biorenewable sources such as plants or DNA sources. These liners are indeed biodegradable as compared to its counterpart. 

Furthermore, biodegradable bin liners can also be composted and thus be used as a natural fertiliser because these bin liners are considered non-toxic and have organic content in them. 

Frequently Asked Questions: What are biodegradable bin liners?

How much time do biodegradable bin liners take to degrade?

These bin liners may require between three to six months. The exact duration depends on the external conditions and the type of material used to make biodegradable bin liners. 

Can biodegradable bin liners be recycled?

Yes, it is possible to recycle biodegradable bin liners and this will ensure better waste and resource management. 

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

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