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Degradable, Biodegradable and Compostable Bin Liner Information

Why Degradable or Biodegradable bags/film?

Conventional plastics do not break down. Litter and landfill waste take years, even decades, to degrade. Litter is visual pollution, an eyesore that regulations and educational programs have failed to eliminate. In landfills, not only do ordinary plastics degrade very slowly but also anything contained within them may not reach their full degradation potential. This results in a needless waste of valuable landfill space.

Therefore, Degradable/Biodegradable bags are developed to make your daily tasks of waste reduction easier, safer and better for the environment.

What is the difference between degradable and biodegradable?

Degradation is a process whereby very large molecules are broken into smaller molecules or fragments. Normally, oxygen is incorporated into these molecular fragments. Typically, strong, tough plastic films become weak and brittle as a result of oxidative degradation. This outcome is because the molecules of which the films consist become much smaller. Degradation can be caused (initiated) by heat, or exposure to UV light and is enhanced by mechanical stress.

“Degradable Plastic: a plastic designed to undergo a significant change in its chemical structure under specific environmental conditions resulting in a loss of some properties that may vary as measured by standard test methods appropriate to the plastic and the application in a period of time that determines its classification.”
[ASTM D883-99] – American Society for Testing and Materials.

Biodegradation is the process by which microorganisms (microbes such as bacteria, fungi or algae) convert materials into biomass, carbon dioxide and water. Biomass is a general term used to refer to the cells of the microorganisms that are using the material as a carbon source to grow on.

“Biodegradable Plastic: a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from the action of naturally-occurring micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae.”
[ASTM D883-99] – American Society for Testing and Materials.

There are two primary differences between ‘degradable’ and ‘biodegradable’. Firstly, heat, moisture and/or UV exposure most often causes the degradation of a degradable product, whereas microorganisms degrade a biodegradable product. Secondly, degradable products tend to take much longer to break down into carbon dioxide, biomass and water.

When degradable plastics break down into smaller molecules, eventually they will be small enough to be consumed by microorganisms and so biodegradation occurs. In essence then, all degradable films will eventually biodegrade but at different speeds.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: What is the difference between compostable, biodegradable and degradable plastic?

A: Biodegradable plastic will degrade as a result of bacterial activity. In order to also be classified compostable, the degradation must meet certain specified criteria such as rate biodegradation, maximum residue of material left at a specific point in time and a requirement for the material to have no harmful impact on the final compost or the composting process. All compostable plastic is therefore also biodegradable. The most commonly used standards for compostable plastic are the American standard ASTM #D6400-99, the European standard EN-13432 and DIN V-54900.

Degradable plastic includes all classes of degradable plastic including the biodegradable and compostable. However, plastic that is not biodegradable or compostable usually use the label Degradable plastic. Most of the products using the label Degradable plastic, degrade as result of physical and chemical impact (fracture into smaller pieces of plastic). Biological activity is not a significant part of the degradation of these products, or the process is too slow to earn the classification Biodegradable or Compostable (the biological degradation will typically take many years).

ASTM and ISO have the following definitions on various degradable plastics:

 

  • degradable plastic , a plastic designed to undergo a significant change in its chemical structure under specific environmental conditions resulting in a loss of some properties that may vary as measured by standard test methods appropriate to the plastic and the application in a period of time that determines its classification.
  • biodegradable plastic , a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from the action of naturally-occurring micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi and algae.
  • compostable plastic, a plastic that undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known, compostable materials and leaves no visually distinguishable or toxic residue.
  • photo degradable plastic , a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from the action of natural daylight.
  • oxidative degradable plastic , a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from oxidation.
  • hydrolytic degradable plastic, a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from hydrolysis.

 

Q: What is the shelf life of the BioBags you supply?

A: Different material grades will have different shelf life. The shelf life is usually about 2 years if stored indoor at "normal" temperature and humidity.

Q: Why is my food waste and the bags not composted within 45 days?

A: In a commercial composting plants the bags will normally be composted within 1 to two weeks. Most home composters will not reach the desired temperatures of 60-70 deg C, where the composting process is most efficient. You will see that your bag is degrading at the same speed as your food waste. The "normal" turnover time for a home composter is 6-12 months. You will see that the bags are gone when the waste has been turned into compost.

Q: Will the bags dissolve in water?

A: No, the bags are not dissolved in water. The degradation is due to bacterial activity. In the sea, this degradation will typically take a couple of months. However, as the bags are mainly made from starch, they can also be digested by larger animals.