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Biodegradeable plastics: a blessing or a curse?

Ah plastic. Cheap, lightweight, durable, and versatile. What more could you want? Well, in these greening times, many ask for biodegradeablilty. There's now biodegradeable plastic water bottles, takeout containers, grocery bags. But is it the right answer? Most of the experts we've met in the Master Recycler class would give you a resounding "no." The reasons are many:

  • Biodegradeable plastics don't always degrade very well, especially photo biodegradeable plastics
  • If you compost them, they really don't add anything good to the compost, and probably leave behind some plastic
  • They are a major contaminant in the recycling stream of petroleum-based plastics

My vote: biodegradeable plastics are a curse. They muddy the waters. They allow us to think we're making green choices when we're really just sticking to the unhealthy habits of our throw-away culture. It's all the more reason to bring your own cloth bags (or reuse store bags until they fall apart), fill your own reuseable water bottle, and bring your own takeout containers too. Avoid getting into another argument along the lines of paper vs. plastic (biodegradeable plastics vs. recyclable petroleum-based plastics - doesn't really roll off the tongue the way "paper vs. plastic" does). So what do you think?   


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