To begin, let’s answer the question we are all asking: What is “biodegradable?”
Biodegradable means to be broken down with organic matter. Since our biodegradable products are made of organic materials – wood, cotton, and hemp – waste becomes more beneficial to the environment. This process is much quicker than with plastics, allowing for waste to “enrich the soil” and “reduce threats to wildlife” (Current Research in Biodegradable Plastics).
In other words, products made up of biodegradable materials are able to break down more quickly with natural materials from the Earth (also known as composting) and have less of an impact than non-biodegradable products.
However, biodegradation and composting aren’t without risk.
According to Columbia University’s State of the Planet, biodegradable products require oxygen to break down their products. When the products are thrown without caution into a landfill, piled underneath mounds of waste products without access to oxygen, the products are forced to break down anaerobically. When that happens, “they may release methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide” (The Truth About Bioplastics)
Despite the risk they pose, biodegradable products are a better alternative to the plastic we are so used to. With the right choices, we can eliminate waste before it’s too late.
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