There are some biodegradable, compostable plastics.
What is biodegradable? Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. More about biodegrading here
What is compostable? To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive. For a man-made product to be sold as compostable, it has to meet certain standards. One such is the European Norm EN13432. You can find out more here.
Most compostable plastics are bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from natural materials such as corn starch. However not all are compostable. Find out more here.
There is research being done into developing a compostable, oil-derived plastic. Watch this space BUT don’t fall for the old *biodegradable plastic bag trick see below.
Compostable Plastics include
- Polylactide acid (PLA) which looks and behaves like polyethylene and polypropylene. can be used to make bags, food containers and cutlery. We have used, and composted at home, a number of PLA products. Follow the link to find out more.
*Compostable versus biodegradable plastics
You might see some plastics labelled as biodegradable. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is the same as compostable plastic. It is not. Biodegradable plastics are often normal (petrochemical) plastics with a degrading initiator added to make them fall apart (degrade) more quickly. Unlike compostable plastics they don’t always break down into harmless substances and may leave behind a toxic residue. Read more here