Adding to the confusion of bioplastic definition (see comments on previous bioplastic post) is another growing sector, the development of biodegradable petroleum-based plastics.
I'm sure petroleum-plastics eventually degrade give or take a century or so (maybe even several decades if we're lucky). But brilliant chemists have found ways to make petroleum-based plastics degrade faster - either by combining them with natural-based materials (e.g. polylactic acid, starch, sugar...) or by adding plastic degrading additives.
In April, American Trade Products (ATP) introduced its Earth Plastic, a 100% biodegradable and recyclable post-consumer plastic that has a proprietary blend of additives that enables it to break down in landfill and compost environments.
ATP said the resins are already being used in a line of 100% biodegradable paint
trays and sundries available at The Home Depot, select Wal-Mart stores, and Sherwin-Williams across the US.
Also in April, Enso Bottles launched their biodegradable polyethylene (PET) bottles EcoPure that uses plastic degrading additives from Bio-Tec Environmental.
According to Enso, the bottles have the same physical properties as standard PET, can be recycled like PET, but do not fragment, degrade or break down from environmental conditions such as UV, moisture and oxygen. EcoPure biodegrade through natural microbial digestion.
ENSO bottles assured that the degradable bottles have been tested and validated for recyclability and biodegradability through an accredited third-party laboratory using American Society of Testing Materials' (ASTM) standard methodologies. ATP also had their products tested and certified as biodegradable by independent laboratories using the ASTM methods.
Why these assurances?
Because the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) are worried that there are no publicly-available data and testing on the potential impacts of these degradable additives to petro-based plastics' function, properties, and recyclability.
These additives are now termed as biodegradable, oxo-degradable and some photodegradable.
Both groups are calling for resin and packaging manufacturers especially PET to refrain from introductions of degradable additive-containing products until data is made available for review and verification.
Another company, Planet Green Bottle Corporation, said it has developed a masterbatch additive through its joint venture partner, Wells Plastic of the UK, which causes a PET plastic bottle to become oxo-biodegradable in landfills, ditches, rivers and oceans.
Planet Green launched its oxo-biodegradable PET plastic bottle last March.
Stay tune for more bioplastic information from my upcoming article on June 29.