Biodegradable Plastics Won’t Put You on the Path to Circularity

Making plastics disappear — it’s the wish of many, especially resonant as Earth Day approaches, and the aim of numerous bans on single-use plastics and plastic bags. But outside of banning plastics, creating biodegradable plastic products that compost into nothing at the end of their life might seem like a reasonable alternative — an additional tool in the quiver of green tactics. Not so fast, cautions one expert. While biodegradable plastics certainly exist — in fact, eight versions are vying for this year’s Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize — the fact that material science affords the opportunity to create plastics that disappear doesn’t necessarily make this the best course of action. In fact, overall, biodegradable plastics ultimately add to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, said Bob Lilienfeld, Executive Director of the Sustainable Packaging Research, Information, and Networking Group (SPRING) in Broomfield, CO.

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