You may have heard about ‘bioplastic’ alternatives to single-use plastic, often referred to by the brand name ‘Vegware.’ Bioplastic cups, cutlery and straws are NOT currently a clever solution for most bars and riverside event situations. They are made from renewable plant sources BUT they can only be properly disposed of using a special industrial process currently not widely available in the UK.
Bioplastics need anaerobic heat digestion to break down and this is only possible through a special bio-mass composting machine. Without this process, they take as long to degrade as most conventional plastic, and can mess with conventional plastic recycling and sorting.
Common bioplastics currently on the market include:
- PLA made from corn and plants
- PHB and PHA made from sugar
- CA made from wood or cotton
- Made from renewable plant materials instead of fossil fuel oil
- Lower carbon footprint than conventional plastic
- Non toxic
- Won’t degrade in normal landfill
- Contaminates conventional plastic recycling
- Needs specialist waste collection and disposal
If bioplastic products end up in normal waste, they contaminate conventional plastic recycling that cannot identify the difference between bio and PET plastic. So, in most situations bioplastics are currently not a good solution, unless you have a contained venue or festival and all your waste is collected by a contractor specialising in anaerobic digestion.
The average punter is led to believe that bioplastics are safely biodegradable in normal rubbish disposal. But this is not the case for a busy London pub where customers take drinks outside, specialist rubbish disposal is not an option and bioplastic cups and cutlery may end up blowing into waterways or end up in the normal ‘on the go’ rubbish bin.
Click below to learn more about bioplastics and their end-of-life options.