Our environment has a growing problem that concerns us. Every passing day we are increasingly more aware that the current rate of waste generation is unsustainable, and we must take action on the issue.
Many companies are climbing into the sustainability cart using biodegradable and compostable packaging. It must be said that sometimes this effort is pure marketing. Before delving into whether the use of such materials is more beneficial than recyclable plastic materials, we must first understand the properties of a biodegradable and compostable container. These two types of packaging may look the same and many people confuse them, but they are not similar.
Biodegradable materials have the ability to degrade through the metabolization of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungus, etc. Compostable materials also degrade in the environment, although the degradation time is shorter, a maximum of 12 weeks, transforming into a new material called compost that is used for fertilization. A compostable material is always biodegradable, but a biodegradable material is not necessarily compostable.
Although compost could be considered a good alternative for the environment, the truth is that, as the European parliament points out, waste generation remains unsolved, as it remains single-use material. The fact is that administration is slower than innovation, and currently there is no adequate infrastructure available for the treatment of this packaging. It is also not feasible to replace plastic packaging with seemingly greener alternatives, as the number of natural resources that should be used could compromise the food chain.
We must highlight the low added value of compost, which requires heavier packaging with less mechanical performance that negatively affects plastic recycling lines, as they are often placed into the wrong disposal containers.
The solution remains the responsible use of plastic packaging. Using plastic that can be recycled and reducing the amount of fossil raw material, promoting the circular economy. We must continue to work on improving the recyclability of plastic, so that the quota of single-use materials, biodegradable and compostable or not, can be reduced to a more sustainable level for our planet. We must train society to be responsible and avoid wasting our planet.