Why is biodegradable packaging an ethical choice? (7 advantages of using bioplastics).

This blog article shall look into the reasons why using biodegradable materials for packaging is an ethical choice.

It shall also address other areas that include.

  • Types of biodegradable packaging materials.
  • Advantages of biodegradable packaging materials.
  • Disadvantages of biodegradable packaging materials.
  • Eco-friendliness of biodegradable packaging materials.

Why is biodegradable packaging an ethical choice?

Biodegradable packaging is the use of biodegradable materials to package things.

The world is being faced with catastrophes after catastrophes, most of which emanate from our choice of the lives we want to lead.

Every day when you watch the news you can bet you will come across cases of flooding, cancer, reproductive infections, respiratory infections, and many more.

There is a popular saying, “you are what you eat”. This means that our choice of food will determine our health.

This is also true when it comes to packaging. When improper material is used for packaging, it can affect what we consume and in the long run affect our health.

There is a wide range of materials used for packaging, but they are all categorized as either biodegradable or non-biodegradable.

Biodegradable materials are those which can be degraded by microorganisms into small, non-hazardous particles.

Therefore, biodegradable packaging is an ethical choice because it helps conserve our environment and also safeguard our health.

Biodegradable materials used for packaging produce non-toxic chemicals, and they also do not cause landfills hence they are a better choice of materials.

The choice of biodegradable packaging is ethical because it prevents the following effects of non-biodegradable packaging.

  • Global warming due to fluorocarbons.
  • Exposure to carcinogens.
  • Food poisoning due to toxic emissions.
  • Landfills
  • Reproductive system illnesses.
  • Problems with the respiratory system.

What are the types of biodegradable packaging materials?

Biodegradable packaging materials are derived from biodegradable plant products and they are generally called bioplastics.

Bioplastics.

These are plastic materials produced from biodegradable organic matter.

They are derived from plant and animal sources such as vegetable fats and oils, maize starch, sawdust, woodchips, and food wastes.

Some are obtained from cellulose, chitosan, and alginate.

Others are produced from proteins such as gelatin, gluten, and soy proteins.

Starch-based plastics.

These are thermoplastics made from starch.

They are the most widely used bioplastics.

The properties of these types of plastics are highly dependent on their chemical structure, particularly the ratio of amylose and amylopectin.

Since pure starch plastic is brittle, it is hardened by adding plasticizers such as glycol, glycerol, or sorbitol.

The plastics are produced based on their purpose, the concentration of additives added to harden them is determined by the purpose of the plastic.

Properties of starch-based bioplastics.

The following are the properties of starch plastics.

  • Have high thermal stability.
  • High moisture resistance.
  • Impermeable to gas penetration.
  • They are biodegradable.

Uses of starch-based plastics.

The following are the uses of starch-based plastics.

  • In the packaging of magazine wrappings.
  • Packaging of bubble films.
  • Used as fruit packaging bags.
  • Used as vegetable packaging bags.
  • Used in making papers.

Cellulose-based plastics.

These are bioplastics obtained from cellulose esters such as cellulose acetate and nitrocellulose.

Cellulose is converted to thermoplastics by extensive modification.

Cellulose-based plastics are not very common cellulose acetate and nitrocellulose are very expensive to acquire.

It is however added to starch-based plastic to improve its properties such as permeability to gas and water resistance.

Polylactic acid (PLA) plastics.

These are plastics produced from maize starch dextrose.

Properties.

Its properties include.

  • It is biodegradable.
  • It has low tensile strength.
  • Low thermal resistance.
  • It has high gas permeability.

Uses.

Its uses are as follows.

  • Making plastic cups.
  • Making plastic containers.
  • Making plastic bottles.
  • Making films.

Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate plastics.

This is a bioplastic produced from glucose and maize starch through fermentation by bacteria.

Properties.

The following are its properties.

  • High tensile strength.
  • Resistant to organic solvents.
  • Resistant to heat.
  • It is biodegradation.

Uses.

Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate is used in the following ways.

  • Making plastic bottles.
  • In making plastic films.
  • Making plastic bags

Polyhydroxy-alkanoate plastic.

This is a bioplastic produced in nature by bacteria when they ferment sugar or lipids.

The properties of polyhydroxy-alkanoate are determined by the polymers used to make it.

Properties.

The properties of polyhydroxy-alkanoate include the following.

  • It is less elastic than other bioplastics.
  • It is less ductile than other bioplastics.
  • It is biodegradable.
  • It is optically active.
  • It is biocompatible.
  • It is highly porous.
  • It is immunotolerant.
  • It has low toxicity.

Uses of polyhydroxy-alkanoate plastic.

Polyhydroxy-alkanoate plastics are mainly used in medicine for the following purposes.

  • To make artificial kidney membranes.
  • To make wound grafts.
  • To make bio-absorbable sutures.
  • To make 3D medical structures.

Lipid-derived plastics.

These are bioplastics that have been synthesized from plants and animal fats and oils.

They include the following plastics.

Polyamide 11 plastics.

This is a bioplastic derived from natural animal oil.

Properties.

The following are the properties of polyamide 11 plastics.

  • It has a high thermal resistance.
  • It is resistant to water permeability.
  • It has a relatively high tensile strength.
  • It is resistant to abrasions.
  • It is partially biodegradable.

Uses of polyamide 11 plastics.

Polyamide 11 plastics are used in:

  • Making automotive fuel lines.
  • Making flexible oil and gas pipes.
  • Making control fluid umbilicals.
  • Making sports shoes.
  • Making electronic components.
  • Making medical catheters.
  • Making pneumatic air-brake tubing
  • Making electrical cable anti-termite sheathing.

Polybutylene succinate plastic.

This is a thermoplastic bioplastic derived from fats and oils.

It contains similar properties to petrochemical-based polypropylene plastic.

Properties of polybutylene succinate plastic.

The following are the properties of polybutylene succinate plastic.

  • It is biodegradable.
  • It is resistant to chemicals.
  • It is heat resistant.
  • It has good tensile strength.

Uses of polybutylene succinate plastic.

The following are the uses of polybutylene succinate plastic.

  • In making films.
  • In making bags and boxes for storage.
  • In making tableware.
  • Making mulching films.
  • Making fishing nets.
  • In making biodegradable drug encapsulating systems.
  • Making media for implants.

Advantages of biodegradable packaging materials.

The advantages include.

  • They contain less carbon and hence low environmental pollution.
  • They have reduced overreliance on petrochemical plastics.
  • They have a fast rate of biodegradation.
  • They are less toxic as compared to inorganic plastics. They do not have bisphenol A and antimony-trioxide which are found on petrochemical plastics and are toxic to humans.
  • They are recyclable.
  • Their production consumes less energy as compared to traditional plastics.
  • They do not lead to land mining and land derelict since no mining is required.
  • They do not leach chemicals into food, soil, or water.

Disadvantages of using biodegradable packaging materials.

The following are the disadvantages:

  • They are not as durable as petrochemical plastics since they are broken down by bacteria and fungi.
  • Their resistance to chemicals and solvents is very low.
  • They are less flexible and elastic.
  • They encourage littering since users already know they will decompose on their own.
  • People will embark on large-scale plantations of plants to produce bioplastics, instead of food crops, and this will increase the food crisis.
  • When dumped in the landfills, they can cause land pollution.

Are biodegradable packaging materials eco-friendly?

Yes, biodegradable packaging materials are eco-friendly. This is according to a report in green packaging.

The materials are broken down into simpler particles that do not have any harm to the environment.

The broken particles act as nutrients for the soil.

Biodegradable materials contain small traces of carbon and therefore they reduce the carbon content in the environment.

Conclusion.

This article has covered the question of ethical issues regarding the choice of biodegradable packaging materials.

It has also addressed other areas such as:

  • The types of biodegradable packaging materials.
  • The uses of different packaging materials.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of biodegradable packaging materials.
  • The eco-friendliness of biodegradable packaging materials.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Why is biodegradable packaging an ethical choice?

Why is biodegradable packaging an ethical choice?

Biodegradable packaging materials are easily broken down by microorganisms into small particles which are harmless to the environment.

They are therefore safe to use since they do not pose any threat to the animals or plants.

What is biodegradable packaging?

These are packaging materials made from naturally occurring organic materials. They are susceptible to Microbial degradation.

The materials are made from plant products such as cellulose, protein, organic acids, and lipids.

What are the advantages of biodegradable plastics?

The advantages of using biodegradable plastics include the following:

  • They are non-toxic to the environment.
  • They do not lead to landfills.
  • They are cheap to synthesize.
  • They do not emit harmful substances to the environment.

Citations.

Arifa Shafqat, Arifa Tahil, Nabil Al-zaqro, Ali Alsalme. ( March 2021). Synthesis and characterization of starch-based bioplastics using varying plant-based ingredients, plasticizers, and natural fillers. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences. 1739-1749.

Retrieved from:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319562X20306707#!

 Chinthapalli, Raj; Skoczinski, Pia; Carus, Michael; Baltus, Wolfgang; de Guzman, Doris; Käb, Harald; Raschka, Achim; Ravenstijn, Jan (2019-08-01). “Biobased Building Blocks and Polymers—Global Capacities, Production and Trends, 2018–2023”. Industrial Biotechnology. 15 (4): 237–241. doi:10.1089/ind.2019.29179.rch. ISSN 1550-9087. S2CID 202017074.

Haider T, Völker C, Kramm J, Landfester K, Wurm FR (July 2018). “Plastics of the future? The impact of biodegradable polymers on the environment and society”. Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English. 58 (1): 50–62.

doi:10.1002/anie.201805766

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