We have a microplastic problem
and a bio solution!
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about microplastics being a problem. But: Why exactly? And more importantly, is there a solution to this problem?
Gibt es eine Lösung für dieses Problem?
Conventional plastic is a man-made material and is not naturally degradable. When plastic ends up in nature, it does not rot, but decays into smaller and smaller parts under the influence of temperature and humidity. This is how microplastics comes into excistence.
By definition, all plastic particles smaller than 5 millimetres are classified as microplastics.
How exactly do microplastic particles enter the environment?
Microplastics can enter the environment in two different ways. Firstly, they detach themselves from bigger plastic products. This is called secondary microplastic. It occurs when plastic products land in nature and decompose into tiny particles under the influence of sun, wind or water. Or the particles arise during use, e.g. the abrasion of car tyres or the washing of synthetic textiles.
Secondly, small plastic particles are produced in the industry. This is the so-called primary microplastic. The micro particles are used, for example, as peelings in cosmetics, as binders in liquid products, as filter in the food industry or as semi-finished products for the production of plastic products. These tiny particles can then, for example, enter the environment unhindered within our wastewater.
Why is microplastics a problem in the environment?
Due to their surface properties, the small plastic particles attract environmental pollutants, such as heavy metals or other toxins that are difficult to biodegrade. They may also contain toxic additives from production, such as softener or other additives that are harmful to health.
The problem begins with these particles ending up in the food chain. River and sea dweller absorb the microplastic and carry it in their bodies. This can lead to tissue changes, inflammation, internal injury and death. Not only watercreatures, but also human take in microplastic particles through food.
The impact on human health has not yet been sufficiently researched. Microplastics were not only found in fish, but also in drinking water, milk or honey. On average, we eat and drink the equivalent of one credit card per week.
One thing to be sure about: Once these plastic particles enter the environment, they are difficult or even impossible to remove. It is therefore necessary to take preventative measures.
In a nutshell: Conventional plastic waste has no future!
Is bioplastics the solution to the microplastics problem?
Well...! To answer this question, we need to take a closer look at the term "bioplastic". Because the collective term includes different types of plastics. Bioplastics can be both biobased and biodegradable. Both properties can, but do not necessarily need to be given at the same time. If you would like to go into more detail, we recommend the knowledge article “What is Bioplastic.”.
Back to microplastics: Here, the property "biodegradable" is of interest. Bioplastics that are biodegradable (e. g. PHB, PLA, PBS, PBAT) leave no microplastics traces in the environment. It is important that the bioplastics are not only degradable in industrial facilities, but also under ambient conditions (more on this here). Bioplastics that are biobased but not biodegradable (e.g. bio-PET, bio-PE, bio-PP) only break down into smaller and smaller pieces, i.e. microplastic particles. They therefore leave behind microplastics just like their fossil counterparts. The infographic shows how differently biodegradable and conventional plastics behave.
The microplastic problem can be solved in three ways: abstaining from plastics, working on filter solutions or transforming towards biodegradable plastics.
And that’s our BIOVOX mission. We help manufacturers with their transformation process towards sustainable materials. Our bioplastic is biodegradable, biobased and above all: Functional!
In a Nutshell
Microplastics are a problem for the environment. If the particles, with less than 5 millimetres in size, enter the food chain, it also becomes a problem for living beings.
The health consequences for humans have not yet been sufficiently researched. But we can be sure, that once netered, the small particles are difficult or no longer removeable from the environment. Therefore, it should be avoided as a preventative measure.
Consumers who want to buy microplastics-free can pay attention to the labelling “biodegradable” or “microplastics-free” when buying. Manufacturers can make a positive contribution by shifting their production to biodegradable plastics.
More Knowledge in our BioWiki
Your products are made from bioplastics now – great, but how do you communicate this switch to your target group? In this article, we explain how to communicate sustainability authentically.
Which plastics can be safely used in medical technology to manufacture medical and pharmaceutical products or packaging? This and the term “Medical Grade Plastics” are explained in this short article.
Eine Sterilbarriereverpackung aus Kunststoff sorgt dafür, dass Medizinprodukte wie Kanülen oder chirurgische Instrumente lange Zeit keimfrei bleiben. Nur so können sie sicher verwendet werden. Was Sterilität ist, warum wir sie brauchen und ob sich Biokunststoffe als Sterilbarriere eignen, das hat BIOVOX-Expertin Maria Heckel in diesem Artikel zusammengefasst.