The Future of Biodegradable Plastics

The Future of Biodegradable Plastics: Can They Help Solve Our Waste Problem?


The problem of plastic waste is undoubtedly one of the most pressing environmental issues we face today. Each year, millions of tonnes of plastics end up in our oceans and landfills, contributing to pollution and harm to wildlife. One solution that has been proposed is the use of biodegradable plastics. These materials, made from plant-based resources, can be broken down by microorganisms, turning into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. However, can biodegradable plastics truly help solve our waste problem? In this blog post, we delve into the current state of biodegradable plastics, their potential benefits, challenges, and their role in the future of waste management.

Biodegradable Plastics: An Overview

Biodegradable plastics are made from natural materials like corn starch, potato starch, or polylactic acid (PLA). Unlike traditional plastic, derived from petroleum, biodegradable plastics can be broken down by microorganisms over time. The idea is to replace single-use plastics - the biggest contributors to plastic pollution - with these greener alternatives.

The Promise of Biodegradable Plastics

One of the primary advantages of biodegradable plastics is their potential to reduce the accumulation of plastic waste. Traditional plastics can take hundreds of years to degrade, during which they break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. These microplastics have been found everywhere from the deepest parts of the ocean to the air we breathe. On the other hand, biodegradable plastics, under the right conditions, can break down much faster and more fully.

Another potential benefit is the reduced reliance on fossil fuels. Since most conventional plastics are derived from petroleum, their production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Biodegradable plastics, however, are often made from renewable plant resources. The shift from fossil fuels to renewable resources could help reduce our carbon footprint.

The Challenges with Biodegradable Plastics

While biodegradable plastics present an appealing solution, it’s important to understand the challenges associated with them. One significant issue is that these plastics require specific conditions to degrade effectively. They often need industrial composting facilities with high temperatures and the right balance of microorganisms to break down fully. In a landfill or the ocean, these conditions are rarely met, causing the biodegradable plastics to persist much like their conventional counterparts.

Additionally, biodegradable plastics are currently more expensive to produce than regular plastics. This cost is often passed onto the consumer, making products with biodegradable packaging less competitive in the market.

Furthermore, the cultivation of crops for bioplastics could have other environmental implications. Large scale crop cultivation can lead to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and increased water use. It's essential that as the industry grows, sustainable farming practices are adopted.

The Role of Biodegradable Plastics in Waste Management

With these benefits and challenges in mind, what role do biodegradable plastics play in our future waste management? Firstly, it’s important to view biodegradable plastics as part of a larger solution. While they have their place, they are not a magic bullet for our plastic pollution problem. Rather, they should be used in conjunction with other strategies, like improving recycling technologies and systems, implementing waste reduction measures, and fostering consumer awareness and responsibility.

Secondly, infrastructure needs to catch up with the technology. As mentioned earlier, biodegradable plastics require specific conditions to degrade. This means we need to invest in industrial composting facilities and kerbside compost collection to ensure these materials are disposed of correctly. It also means educating consumers about proper disposal, as biodegradable plastics can contaminate traditional recycling streams.

Finally, further research and innovation are needed. As we gain a better understanding of biodegradable materials and their interaction with the environment, we can develop better products. For example, research is ongoing to develop biodegradable plastics that can break down in lower temperatures and in marine environments, addressing some of the current limitations.

The Future of Biodegradable Plastics

Looking ahead, biodegradable plastics are poised to play a significant role in our fight against plastic pollution. While there are hurdles to overcome, there are also numerous opportunities for innovation and progress. Let's explore what the future may hold for biodegradable plastics.

  1. Advancements in Biotechnology: Biotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the production of biodegradable plastics. For example, scientists are using genetically engineered bacteria to produce plastic from organic waste. This could solve two problems at once, turning waste into a valuable resource while reducing our reliance on virgin materials.
  2. Policy and Legislation: Governments around the world are starting to implement policies aimed at reducing plastic waste, such as bans on single-use plastics and requirements for compostable packaging. This regulatory pressure could drive the adoption of biodegradable plastics, making them a standard part of the marketplace.
  3. Consumer Demand: As awareness of the environmental impacts of plastic pollution grows, so does consumer demand for sustainable alternatives. Businesses are responding to this trend, with many now offering products with biodegradable packaging. As this demand continues to grow, it's likely we'll see an increasing number of products on the market made with biodegradable plastics.
  4. Industry Collaboration: Collaboration between different sectors is key to the success of biodegradable plastics. This includes partnerships between biodegradable plastic manufacturers, waste management companies like NCM Recycling and Waste Solutions, government agencies, and research institutions. Through collaboration, we can develop and implement comprehensive solutions that ensure biodegradable plastics are produced, used, and disposed of in a manner that benefits the environment.

Challenges Facing Biodegradable Plastics

While the future is promising for biodegradable plastics, it is important to acknowledge the hurdles and challenges that these materials still face. Understanding these challenges is crucial to devise effective solutions and to optimise the use of biodegradable plastics.

  • Lack of Standards and Regulations: One of the major issues surrounding biodegradable plastics is the lack of uniformity in standards and regulations across different regions. This can lead to confusion among consumers and manufacturers, which in turn can hinder the proper disposal and composting of these materials.

  • Composting Infrastructure: Biodegradable plastics often require specific conditions to decompose effectively, usually involving industrial composting facilities. However, the availability of such facilities varies greatly, with many regions still lacking the necessary infrastructure. Furthermore, even where these facilities exist, the collection and transportation of biodegradable waste can pose logistical challenges.

  • Cost of Production: Currently, the production cost of biodegradable plastics is significantly higher than that of conventional plastics. This cost difference can be a major deterrent for businesses, particularly for those operating on thin margins.

  • Lack of Awareness: Despite the growing conversation around plastic pollution, many people are still unaware of the benefits and requirements of biodegradable plastics. Without proper education and awareness, consumers may not make the switch to products packaged in biodegradable plastics, or they may not dispose of them correctly.

The Role of Innovation in Overcoming Challenges

As we confront these challenges, innovation will play a critical role. Here are a few ways how innovation can contribute to overcoming these hurdles:

  1. Development of New Materials: Scientists are continuously working on the development of new materials that can provide the benefits of plastic without its environmental drawbacks. One example of such innovation is the development of plastics made from algae or other non-food plant sources. These new materials could potentially reduce the cost and environmental impact of biodegradable plastics production.
  2. Improvements in Composting Technology: To address the infrastructure problem, efforts are being made to improve composting technology and make it more accessible. For instance, home composting systems and compostable bags are becoming increasingly available, allowing individuals to compost biodegradable plastics in their own backyards.
  3. Education and Outreach: Innovative approaches are being employed to educate consumers about the benefits and correct disposal methods of biodegradable plastics. Social media campaigns, interactive apps, and other digital tools are being used to reach a wider audience and drive behavioural change.
  4. Business Models: Innovative business models can also help make biodegradable plastics more appealing. For example, businesses can offer incentives or discounts to customers who return their biodegradable packaging for composting. This not only encourages the use of biodegradable plastics but also ensures their proper disposal.

With these innovations and efforts, we can tackle the challenges facing biodegradable plastics and maximise their potential in solving our waste problem. At NCM Recycling and Waste Solutions, we are continuously exploring and implementing innovative solutions to promote sustainable waste management. We are excited to be part of this journey towards a more sustainable future.

Remember, every effort counts. Each one of us has a role to play in this journey, whether it's making the switch to biodegradable plastics, composting our waste, or educating others about sustainable practices. Let's join hands and work together for a greener and cleaner world.


Biodegradable plastics offer a promising solution to the growing problem of plastic waste. While there are challenges to overcome, advancements in technology, shifts in policy, and increasing consumer demand point to a future where biodegradable plastics play a significant role in waste management.

However, it's crucial to remember that biodegradable plastics are only one piece of the puzzle. Addressing our plastic waste problem will require a multi-faceted approach, including waste reduction, recycling, and a shift towards a circular economy. We, at NCM Recycling and Waste Solutions, are committed to playing our part in this journey and look forward to a future where waste is seen not as a problem, but as a resource.

Let's all join in the mission of turning today's waste into tomorrow's resources, and continue exploring solutions, like biodegradable plastics, that can help us on this path. We believe that together, we can create a sustainable future for generations to come.