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RESPONSIBLE | Bioplastic: sustainable or polluting?

Sustainability goes beyond plastic. A company that chooses for alternative packing materials isn’t always more sustainable. In this blog series, you will get more insight in sustainable choices. Part 2: What types of bioplastics are there?

Getting informed is step 1, we learned from the first blog. What sustainability norms are most valuable to you? Bioplastic is made from compostable components, not every type is sustainable by definition. Thanks to the thesis of intern Dionne Rens (Sustainable Value Chains), FleuraMetz can give more insight on the impact of different packing materials.

This type of plastic (i.a. PLA) is a good initiative, even though the processing of it is not optimal yet. The majority can't be recycled and is still burnt. The CO2 emission level in this process is high. Most compostable plastics are made of renewable raw materials (see 'Bio based plastic') but in some cases fossil raw materials are used making the product a lot less sustainable. It also tends to wrinkle more making the product look less attractive.

Bio based means that the raw material of the product is natural. These raw materials are also known as 'renewable raw materials'. For example: wood fibre, starch, (sugar)beet or cellulose. It doesn't look as lush as normal plastic. Also note: not all types are compostable or recyclable! PET for example, used to make bottles for cold drinks, are part bio based. More information about the components of products are listed on the packaging or can be obtained from the packaging supplier.

This phrase is not protected in The Netherlands. When this is mentioned on the packaging of a product without the official 'biodegradable' label, it doesn't comply with the European guidelines and can be harmful to the environment. The different labels and quality labels will be discussed in a later issue.

This looks the most similar to normal plastic. It is also often the cheapest, sustainable alternative. The quality is equal to that of normal plastic. Plastic that is 100% recycled gets a milky colour. It is also not transparent anymore. Plastic that is 50% recycled stays clear. In The Netherlands, despite the correct collection efforts, only 50% is being recycled. By recycling the product, less plastic ends up in the plastic soup but the processing still causes a high level of CO2 emission.

In two weeks: No plastic: paper alternatives
Two weeks ago: Yes or no to plastic?

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