CHENNAI: The concept of compostable disposal is a misunderstood one — the common misconception being any bio-based product will decompose under any circumstance. But, certain microbes have to be introduced to the compost concoction for the proper and timely breakdown of the material. Biodegradable or compostable plastic is a mixture of 30% bio-based polymers and 70% crude-based polymers, which allows the plastic to decompose faster in favourable conditions. To figure out a better option, Naaz Ghani chalks out a comparison between regular and biodegradable plastic.
Decomposes within 5 to 10 years
The polymers derived from food stock degrade in regular composting conditions.The microbial environment can break down biodegradable bags at a molecular level.
Banned for use
The TN government banned the use of plastic bags from January 1, 2019.
Takes thousands of years to decompose
Because plastic is crude-based, it takes a long time for the respective microbes to break it down into its basic polymers. The process takes over thousands of years to complete and degrade the product into its
basic carbon form.
Usage has been encouraged: Because the product has a percentage of food stock, decomposition takes lesser time as compared to a regular plastic polymer. The product is made using food stock from by-products of corn and maize.
Improper disposal of plastic on land leads to it flowing into waterbodies via the drainage system. Composting requires a specific environment for the material to degrade to its basic polymers.
With favourable composting conditions on land, biodegradable plastic bags can be disposed correctly. There would be no need to incinerate the product, hence avoiding air pollution. In case the plastic bags are disposed off incorrectly and find their way to waterbodies via drainage systems, they will take lesser time to decompose, hence adding to freshwater and marine pollution.
Causes high levels of air water and land pollution
Has the potential of causing water pollution
Because of the prolonged use of regular plastic bags for years, it has become an easily available product. Today, small scale vendors depend on these plastic bags to package their products.
Biodegradable plastic bags are still being researched about. Compared to regular plastic, the concept and product is new. Because of the price difference, people prefer plastic bags.
Regular Less expensive
The existence of multiple players in the market has lead to plastic bag manufacturers adopting competitive
pricing.This is the reason for the low cost of regular plastic bags.
Biodegradable More expensive
There are very few players in the market selling biodegradable plastic bags. The technology has emerged from the West and its R&D takes place there too. The few players have enough market share to avoid competing for prices. Once more players enter the market, the prices will drop.
Vary in sizes
Regular plastic bags have been in existence for over a decade. In order to adhere to the demand for them, designs come in various shapes and sizes.
Because production of biodegradable plastic is minimal in the country, manufacturers stick to four or five sizes that audience accept. Most tech parks and common cafeterias form the larger part of their target market. Hence, production of 28x36 and 30x37 sizes are most common.
Availablity of plastic bags
Regular plastic bags have infiltrated markets and is used by everyone from large supermarkets to cart vendors.
Biodegradable plastic can be found only in large supermarkets for residential use. Most of the products are sold at a Business to Business level.
Variety of brands available
Regular Plastic bags entered the Indian market in the early 1800s. By 1998, Sikkim executed a plastic ban because of the effects of its improper disposal. But the demand did not reduce. To meet the demands, people set up more plastic bag manufacturing units. Today, over 70 brands in India manufacture plastic bags of different qualities.
Only 4 or 5 brands in the Indian market Currently,
the Indian market for biodegradable plastic bags is run by Western players. No company is based in India. The few that are competing in the market are shadowed by the foreign brands, hence cutting market share and results in the highly priced range of products.