What Are the Various Types of Biodegradable Bags?

Biodegradable bags are becoming more and more commonly used, because they are better for the environment and most people are concerned about being more “green”. As you try to understand a little bit more about your options where biodegradable bags are concerned, you should be aware of the various types of biodegradable bags.

Common ingredients used in biodegradable bags include:

• starch based polymers (at least 90% starch from wheat, potatoes or corn;
• polyesters manufactured from hydrocarbons;
• oxo-biodegradable polymers;
• photo degradable polymers (break down with UV light);
• water soluble polymers – dissolve in water at a certain temperature.

Biobased or Starch Based:

These types of bags are manufactured from various starches, such as wheat, potatoes or corn. These bags will break down or biodegrade in 180 days or less, depending on the environmental conditions. There are no fossil fuels used in the production of these bags, and they degrade quickly. The strength of these bags is not very good if they are over filled with heavy materials and they have a limited shelf life. These types of bags need to be composted in a special composting facility, so they are likely not a good choice for disposing of your household garbage.

Oxodegradable and Photodegradable:

This plastic is manufactured through blending an additive which provides a UV/oxidative catalyst when it is disposed of. This plastic can take anywhere from a few months to several years to break down in a landfill. The biodegradation takes place in two steps, first the plastic is converted by reacting to oxygen and second by breaking down into molecular fragments that are biodegraded into carbon dioxide, water and other compounds by micro organisms. These bags are inexpensive and have a longer shelf life than most biodegradable bags. They are also recyclable. These plastic bags look similar to regular plastic bags, except they biodegrade once they are disposed of.
Degradation is the process in which larger molecules are broken down into smaller pieces which are capable of being processed by tiny micro organisms. This process is initiated when plastic is exposed to heat, air and sunlight (UV rays) which work together to break down the biodegradable plastic.

As we move towards being more aware of our environment and taking care of the planet, it is a good idea to choose biodegradable plastic bags. Traditional plastic bags are taxing the environment by using petroleum based resources and a very involved manufacturing process. Eventually these bags will be banned.

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