Bioplastics: Planet Savers or Money Wasters?
Bioplastic might be the thing that saves the world from the suffocating influence of plastic. But in return could it suffocate our daily life?
by Pranav Arun
Plastics are taking over our world, literally. According to ocean crusaders.org, every year, shoppers use approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags, and most of those 500 billion are not properly disposed of. Every year, thousands of metric tons of plastic are being dumped into the ocean, and it can take up to 1000 years for these plastics to be decomposed fully. Initiatives are being taken to help save the oceans and stop the plastic footprint. Currently creating bioplastic is one of the major initiatives being carried out, these bioplastics are earth-friendly and natural. This new kind of plastic may sound like a great new invention, but should we really switch to using these instead of inexpensive normal plastics?
Plastics first gained its popularity in the 1970s, when people realized how cheap and durable it was. Plastics do not decompose for a long time, and need high heat and pressure to lose their shape. This is what makes them so lethal to sea animals and to the sea itself, because sea animals can digest them and they clutter in the ocean’s gyres, where they slowly make the ocean more acidic.
Bioplastics solve this problem because they are safe when digested, and they decompose easily and quickly. Bioplastics also have a fair share of downsides, and there has always been doubt if they really do what they are supposed to do.
Here’s where the trilemma is presented: should we stick with normal plastics even though they are not good for the ocean, should we use bioplastics instead because of their degradable properties, or is there a neutral side?
The Supporting Side: People for Bioplastics
As expected, a lot of people protest plastic and recommend the use of bioplastics, among them are environmentalists and oceanographers. This is understandable, as many people are concerned about the well-being of the ocean and the creatures in it, and correctly relate the problems in the well-being to plastics. If an ocean animal digests a bioplastic, or a bioplastic ends up in the ocean, it will do no harm to the animals if they digest it, and they do not befoul or acidify the ocean. This side puts the well being of the ocean and its life first, and suggests that there should be a decrease in production and distribution of plastics, and instead bioplastics should replace ordinary plastics as the new daily norm in our lives.
The Disapproving Side: People for Using Normal Plastic
Also seen in this trilemma are the people who disapprove of bioplastics, and say that we are better off just using normal plastic. Standing out among this group are economists and businessmen. This side focuses on the downsides of bioplastics, such as the low tensile strength and high production cost. Bioplastics, seeing as they are made to degrade, and be natural, are frankly not as useful as plastics yet. Imagine crossing the street with 2 bags full of groceries, but seeing the bag melt away or tear, pouring out all of the contents. This is an example of a problem with bioplastics. Additionally, another drawback of bioplastics is their high factory price for manufacturing. It is true that plastics are easily affordable, seeing as they are made from fossil fuels like petroleum. Bioplastics are not exactly the same. A lot of the bioplastics used today are relatively costly in making compared to plastics. This either will cause the market cost to go up, or the profit of companies to go down, which in either case is bad for the economy. So, this side determines that sticking with plastics will not give any economic shocks and keep the economy stable.
The Neutral Perspective
So far, you have seen why some people are all for bioplastics, and why some are against it. But what if there was a neutral perspective, one that would satisfy both sides? In this trilemma, the neutral perspective would not make any drastic changes in the economy by using bioplastics, but steadily ease the economy into a bioplastic normal, while still conducting new research on bioplastic improvements. If this does not work, and the economy gets upset, you can also stick with plastics as the main source in the economy, but governments can still put small limitations, such as plastic taxes in the markets around the world. They can also try to prevent plastic going into the ocean by placing more intense fines on littering. Both of these different neutral perspectives have ideas to satisfy both sides, but the choice is really up to you. Do you think bioplastics are the solution of the plastic pandemic, or do you have a sharp NO to that statement?