How much plastic is in your shopping cart?

Bioplastics can be composed of starches, cellulose, biopolymers and a variety of other materials.

Stop and think. A large number of us have switched from plastic to cloth carry bags and still there is so much plastic in our environment. Most of the plastic waste we seen strewn around can be attributed to packaging — right from our daily goods such as toothpaste, shampoo, milk and vegetables to all the packaging that surrounds our online orders from e-commerce sites. We cannot get away from plastic, cardboard and sometimes the occasional thermocol in our daily well-packaged lives. Yes, some of this plastic is indeed recycled, but it’s a small percentage compared to the overall consumption. What are the other sustainable options available to this uber-popular packaging material?

Introducing….Bioplastics! These can be defined as plastics derived from renewable biomass sources aka vegetable fats, oils and corn starch. While bioplastic can also be made from various other agricultural by-products or re-used plastic bottles, the main point remains. These plastics do not use fossil fuels (or a petrobase) like our common plastics. Common plastics tend to require more fossil fuels and also produce more greenhouse gases than bioplastics.

Bioplastics can be composed of starches, cellulose, biopolymers and a variety of other materials. What makes this material even more exciting is that new reports forecast that the global bioplastics market will grow at a CAGR exceeding 29% by 2020. The report, Global Bioplastics Market 2016-2020, covers the present scenario and growth prospects of the global bioplastics in the key regions of Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific, and the rest of the world. This is great for us sustainability folks as this heralds a new dawn in a world less reliant on conventional plastic.

There has been a recent surge in the finding of new and alternative bio-based and renewable raw materials including those sourced from varieties of grass, trees, plants, and other organic materials such as animal meat and other tissues that decompose by the activities of microorganisms. This has caused a big shift among plastic manufacturers toward bioplastics based on renewable sources.

The prominence of bioplastics has also increased dramatically since several biodegradable starch-based plastics break down by approximately 65% within three months. Compared to the usual 500+ years of conventional plastics, this reduced biodegrade time will directly impact our landfills and waste piles which are already serious environmental hazards.

With a combined effect of evolving consumer preferences and green procurement policies by governments worldwide, the citizens and the government combined to form another formidable force arguing for our shift to better plastics. There is an increasing demand of consumers for eco-friendly packaging forcing manufacturers and packaging vendors towards bioplastic packaging.

In 2015, a global consumer survey conducted on consumer preference on food packaging showed that on an average more than 25% of consumers were of the opinion that food packaging vendors should concentrate more on the development of green product packaging. Government measures towards purchasing sustainable and eco-friendly products are another factor driving this market.

In addition to legislation curbing the use of traditional plastics, governments are also offering incentives such as tax exemptions and certifications to vendors that produce and promote green materials around the world.So yes, the next time you are in the store, stop and think of all the packaging you have added to your cart, and check yourself so you remain a conscious consumer.

The New Indian Express