Plastics are made by petroleum which is environmentally detrimental at every stage of the life-cycle from the mining and extraction, processing and manufacturing, to disposable where plastic degrades into ever smaller pieces, but most will not decompose or be absorbed by the environment. 70 percent of all petrochemicals, are used to create plastics.
An alternative to petroleum-based plastics is plant-based plastics, called bioplastics which is what Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle, introduced in 2012, is a durable bioplastic that will not decompose however can be recycled with the same petroleum PET bottles. However not all bioplastics are recyclable. Going further are the biodegradable bioplastics that promise the solution to the plastic problem, however most biodegradable bioplastics require high-temperature industrial composting facility to breakdown and cannot be composted or recycled.
For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012.
Finding solutions for the world’s plastic problem is an uphill battle. Manufacturers and consumers alike are now accustomed to products and packaging made lighter, less costly and more convenient by plastic, the iterations of which have only grown more complex.
With the renewable energy industry continuing to grow, oil companies have been looking at other ways to stay afloat in the future. They’re expected to lean more toward plastic production as buildings and vehicles transition toward sustainable sources.
Biodegradable plastic sounds like a wonderful idea when you first hear about it. Most plastics are notorious for how long they stick around and how hard it is to break them down naturally, so to think that all those bits of plastics that end up scattered to the four winds could just melt away harmlessly sounds almost too good to be true.