The Truth About Bioplastics & Why We Do Not Use Them
Did you know the world has produced over 9 billion tons of plastic since the 1950s!? Only about 9% of the plastic produced is properly recycled. There are 13x more pieces of plastic in our oceans than stars in our galaxy…yikes.
A lot of companies are switching over to bioplastics as an eco-alternative to plastic. There is typically a leaf on the packaging which makes consumers think, “Oh! It’s eco-friendly!” #NotTheCase
This is actually greenwashing: a form of marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade consumers that an organization’s products are eco-friendly and therefore, better.
Bio-based plastics are created from renewable, plant-based biomass feedstock (such as corn and sugar) and sometimes avoid the use of fossil fuels in their production. But biomass feedstock does not determine whether the product is degradable or compostable.
Having some of the feedstock comes from modern plants allows companies to advertise with ambiguous words like “green”, “natural”, & “biodegradable”… and then slap a green leaf on the packaging to make consumers go, “Wow! Eco-friendly!”
More on Bioplastic
Degradability and compostability are determined by molecular structure. The term “bioplastic” does not indicate how the product will perform in the environment. Bioplastic refers only to whether the product was made with a renewable feedstock, as opposed to a solely fossil-fuel derived plastic.
PLA & PHA
PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) and PLA (Polylactic Acid) are the most common commercially used bioplastics for consumer goods. But these biopolymers are designed to be composted in industrial compost facilities, while most people think this is the same as backyard compost bins or the environment.
Biopolymers like PHA and PLA are “biodegradable” but have very specific conditions where degradation happens. Industrial compost facilities provide a specific heat index in which the materials degrade, otherwise, they will not degrade. These conditions are not found in soil, home compost bins, or the marine environment.
An important issue to mention is that consumers do not know how to properly dispose of bioplastics properly. The majority of bioplastics are thrown in the garbage, where they go straight to the landfill (or the ocean). Some bioplastics are recycled, which is not the proper way to dispose of these materials.
Most consumers do not drive to industrial composting facilities, where these bioplastics need to be discarded since industrial facilities are hard to come by. As a result, bioplastics often end up in landfills where they may release methane, a greenhouse gas 23x more potent than carbon dioxide.
Why We Don’t Use Backyard Compostable Paper Packaging
We have tried to find organic packaging for our Chocolate Magic, but we have had no such luck. We have the option to use backyard compostable paper, but we do not trust that this packaging is a better option. Studies show that backyard compostable packaging contains worrisome chemicals that are linked to not only environmental problems but major health issues.
As of now, we are continuing to use plastic packaging that is lined with foil so that no toxins get into our Chocolate Magic. We test each batch of Chocolate Magic for harmful chemicals such as heavy metals, BPA/plastics, pesticides, and more. We are extremely proud of our testing and our ability to tell our customers we have one of the most transparent, healthy powders on the market.
While the ideal packaging material would be like the skin of a grape, biodegradable in all environments (compost facilities, on land, and in water) most bioplastics are not. Bioplastics are somewhat stepping in the right direction but should not be confused for a more sustainable alternative to plastic. They should not be considered a solution either! Reusable, refillable, and repurposed alternatives are a better solution than single-use plastic throwaways.
This is why we have the zero-waste program, so you all can return your Chocolate Magic bags to us and we turn them into desks, chairs, floorings, etc! But we have NOT given up on our search for a sustainable packaging! We continue to search for the most eco-friendly packaging that does not compromise our customer’s health. We are in communication with a company that is perfecting algae packaging that is non-GMO and chemical-free, and we are hoping that launches within the near future.
MORE SOURCES: Click here to read 5Gyres Ban List