Degradables, biodegradables, compostables.... what do all these types of disposable plastics mean? Things can get complicated really quickly, so don't worry if they confuse you! Here's a quick run down to get to know them better!
Their full name is oxo-degradable. Degradable plastics are still plastic! They just have extra chemical additives that allow them to break down and disintegrate a little speedier than standard plastic if exposed to sunlight and heat.
They're basically... bad news. Like regular plastics, these will degrade into even tinier bits of plastic, called microplastics. Microplastics wind up in animals and marine life and eventually, our guts! They're also extremely difficult to get rid of once they reach the big blue sea. Ever lost your keys? Now imagine if you had to roam the entirety of Pluto to find it.
All degradable plastics should be disposed of in general waste bins.
Made from plant-based materials like corn and wheat starch rather than petroleum, biodegradables are abled to break down under special conditions. Sometimes however, biodegradables refer to plastics with certain microorganisms added to break them down.
If sent to landfill, they break down in the incorrect conditions and may release methane, a green house gas with a warming capacity 21 times more powerful than CO2.
In Australia however, many "biodegradable" plastics are still incorrectly labelled oxo-degradable plastics. It's a slow process for these to be corrected, but all biodegradable plastics need to be disposed of in general waste bins.
Made from plant materials which will break down into non-toxic components, compostable plastics leave no microplastics! Compost is used as a soil improver, meaning they make soil even better for plants. Compostable bin liners can thus be used to collect food scraps and returned to the soil as organic matter helping to improve soil quality.
Ditch the disposable plastics and opt for reusable options if you can!