Looking after our planet is everyone’s job, and while more Australians are backing that message than ever before, we’re still getting through approximately 130kg of plastic waste per person, per year. Back in 2017, state governments around Australia began taking steps to phase-out single-use plastics, starting with a plastic bag ban for retail stores. Since then most states have introduced new plans to reduce plastic waste even further through bans on items like plastic cutlery, straws and plates.
It’s a move that many people support, but you don’t need to wait for new legislation to begin making changes to your own habits. Some manufacturers are introducing products like biodegradable and compostable plastic bags. They’re a great alternative to traditional lightweight plastics and they’re one of the easiest ways for you to cut back on your plastic waste.
What Does Biodegradable Mean?
Biodegradable is a term used to describe things that can be broken down by microorganisms like bacteria, algae or fungi, eventually returning to nature once they have disintegrated far enough. While biodegradable materials typically refer to products that break down naturally, like organic waste, they can also refer to a special class of plastics that have been formulated to biodegrade.
Biodegradable plastic products have been modified to include molecular components or enzymes that help them break down under natural conditions. When exposed to things like water, heat and UV rays, biodegradable plastics decompose into water, carbon dioxide and biomass products. This makes them much shorter-lived than traditional plastics that can persist for hundreds of years without degrading.
What Does Compostable Mean?
While all compostable materials are biodegradable, not all biodegradable materials are compostable. Compostable materials break down in specific composting conditions - warm, moist and containing oxygen (also known as an aerobic environment) - eventually becoming water, carbon dioxide and natural biomass.
Composting is just one way of dealing with organic waste, but it’s a much more environmentally-friendly solution than allowing waste to end up in landfills. In landfills, organic waste is often broken down in an anaerobic process, creating large amounts of methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s approximately 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so the composting of waste is a fantastic way to reduce global emissions.
As the name suggests, compostable plastics can be broken down under compost conditions, just like any other organic material. Australia currently uses two standards to separate compostable plastics that can be broken down under industrial conditions (AS4736) and under home conditions (AS5810) to help consumers make environmentally conscious decisions.
Using Biodegradable and Compostable Plastic Bags
If reducing plastic waste is something that has been on your mind, using biodegradable or compostable plastic bags is an excellent way to make a difference. Depending on which products you use, you’re not only creating less plastic waste, you’ll be helping the environment by ensuring that more organic matter ends up in compost rather than landfill.
To get the most out of compostable and biodegradable plastics, it’s important to follow proper disposal instructions. Plastic bags that are certified home compostable are a great way of making better use of your backyard compost pile and minimising the amount of harmful waste you are generating. In some cases, compostable plastic products are also being used in industrial facilities to generate renewable heat and power from organic materials that otherwise would have gone straight to landfill.
Reduce Your Plastic Use with KonsiderateAt Konsiderate, we’re on a mission to help Australians reduce their plastic consumption, and our range of biodegradable and compostable products are doing just that. Products like our compostable bin liners are made from non-GMO cornstarch and they break down quickly under the right conditions. Kept sealed and away from the light they’ll store for 12 months or longer, making them stable and convenient for use around the home or in commercial settings. If you would like more information on our eco-friendly range or want to order customised products, please feel free to contact us today!