Biodegradable plastics

The biological degradation of plastics appears to be a positive feature at first glance. If plastics are placed in the environment during their life cycle (production, processing, and use), they are broken down by means of biological degradation.

However, the biodegradability of plastics should certainly not be regarded as an alternative means of disposal such that plastics can simply be discarded in the environment. In general, plastics should be collected in disposal systems after use and not simply discarded. The material streams from collection systems should be mechanically recycled if technically possible after being sorted into individual fractions.

In general, the decomposition of the carbon chain in plastics in ambient conditions makes no sense since a possible energy source remains unused and is decomposed while releasing CO2. As long as the combustion of carbon is a major energy source for energy generation, thermal use (in other words, combustion to generate energy) should definitely be considered instead of degradation without any benefit. If plastics are accidentally released into the environment, biodegradability (even over longer periods than required in typical certifications) may deliver a type of emergency solution due to decomposition and biodegradation of the plastic compared to conventional plastics.

Biodegradable plastics should mainly be used if their biodegradability presents a functional benefit. This may be the case in the following applications, for example: