Dangers of Bioplastics

Although bioplastics may seem like a good solution to package your body care products, we recommend your doing research on bioplastics before considering them as an eco-alternative.

  • While bioplastics are considered to be more eco-friendly than traditional plastics, a 2010 study from the University of Pittsburgh found that wasn’t necessarily the case when the materials’ life cycles were considered.
  • Most bioplastics cannot be recycled with PET, and processes to sort out these products are time-intensive and expensive because bioplastics cannot be easily distinguished from PET plastics. If bioplastic contaminates recycled PET,  the entire lot could be rejected and end up in a landfill.
  • Each commercial composter has its own specifications about how long a product must take to compost. If bioplastic products are not meeting the standards, but are being sent to composting centers by consumers, these products could contaminate the composting process.
  • Like regular plastic waste, bioplastics can wreak havoc on marine environments. Dr. Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at Oceana, explains here that even the biodegradable and compostable plastics are “not certified to degrade in cold marine environments.” Instead of degrading, these materials merely fragment into small microplastics that can be swallowed by aquatic life and many other animals.
  • 5 Gyres Institute, and other organizations explained in a report how terms like “eco-friendly” and “biodegradable” confuse and mislead consumers.
  • So­­­­­­­­­­me materials – called “bio-derived” plastics – are made from a combination of fossil fuel and plant sources, but marketers often downplay the former and amplify the latter.
  • Consumers believe that if a product is labeled biodegradable it will rapidly biodegrade, harmlessly in the environment.  This is false.

What can you do?

  • Carefully read through the website of the bioplastic site you are considering using.
    If the material is patented, research the patent to determine what the bioplastic consists of.
  • Often, these bioplastics are not patented, so the company does not have to disclose all of the inputs, and will often tell you that their bioplastic manufacturing process is proprietary.  Can you trust a bioplastic where the manufacturer will not disclose the materials that went into the packaging product?