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The human population has been increasing rapidly over the years. Rapid improvements in the quality of living have led to a population boom. The past generations did not have to deal with some of the problems we face.
Currently, estimates say over 7 billion of us are on the planet now. That is more than half of all human beings ever to have existed.
With this rapid rise in population comes a whole slew of issues—overcrowding, crime, poverty, and pollution. Humans are the planet’s biggest polluters.
We produce so much waste, and it is very much appalling. Statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are frightening. They say the average American produces up to 30 pounds of trash a week.
We have mountains of trash piled into landfills. Islands of garbage are creeping up in our oceans. So, what can we do to save our planet, before we poison the only hope we have into complete desolation.
Eco-Friendly Trash Bags
Ironically, the very thing we use to store our trash is one of the most significant contributors to pollution. Most trash bags are made from petroleum-based plastics.
These can take up to centuries to degrade. Even when they do finally break down, they do so into millions of microplastic particles. These come with their health and environmental risks, which in some ways are even more harmful.
As a way of combating this, a lot of people have started using eco-friendly bags. In particular, biodegradable and compostable bags have become particularly popular in recent years.
So what do these terms mean? Are they different ways of saying the same thing? Are they an effective way to combat the current pollution crisis facing humanity? All these and more will be treated in the article
Biodegradable Trash Bags
Biodegradable means being capable of breaking down into smaller components, usually by the actions of microorganisms. Unfortunately, the truth is not that simple.
This definition is used as a loophole by manufacturers to clean up their public image. They slap the label “biodegradable” on their products, and most people fall for the trick.
Their definition fails to note an essential detail. These materials will eventually break down, but only under the right conditions.
Most of the biodegradable materials used currently are made from all-natural plant-based materials. This makes them a lot easier to break down under the right conditions.
The problem is that a landfill is a pretty bad environment for a biodegradable bag to break down.
Most biodegradable bags require special conditions. Such as temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius, sunlight, and moisture to break down. Landfills cannot provide these required conditions.
Due to this, biodegradable bags usually decompose slowly. Thus, they are generally no better than ordinary plastic bags. To make issues even worse under these conditions, they produce methane gas.
Methane has a greenhouse effect estimated to be as much as 20 times the warming effect of CO2. Unfortunately, this means biodegradable trash bags may not be the magic answer.
Compostable Trash Bags
During the search for a better solution to the trash crisis, compostable bags were born. These are biodegradable materials that decompose into components that enrich the soil.
Therefore, compostable bags went a step further than biodegradable bags. They don’t only break down quickly but also act as a source of nutrients to the soil.
Like biodegradable bags, they are made from 100% natural plant materials. They decompose within 3-6 months under the right conditions. Compostable bags seemed like the perfect solution to previous biodegradable bags. They could be used to store kitchen scraps, and the whole thing is thrown into a compost pile.
They ran into a similar problem as that seen in biodegradable bags. Compostable bags also don’t break down well under the conditions found in a landfill. They were made to be broken down in specialized compost facilities.
Unfortunately, these bags cannot be recycled too. So they must be either thrown away or taken to compost piles.
Another issue is the type of trash and food scraps they can hold. Compostable bags tend to degrade when exposed to a specific types of food scraps. Wastes such as coffee grounds, fruits, and vegetables are good examples.
Compostable vs Biodegradable Trash Bags
So, what are the significant differences between biodegrade and compostable trash bags?
- Compostable trash bags break down more quickly than biodegradable bags. That being said, they still require the right conditions to break down properly.
- Compostable bags can only hold limited materials. They tend to decompose if exposed to certain organic items.
- Compostable bags are nutritious to the soil and can act as manure. Biodegradable bags offer no such nutritional advantages to the land.
- Biodegradable bags are sturdier and more convenient to use in a domestic setting. Compostable bags are flimsy and prone to ripping.
- Compostable bags are better for the environment. They do not need external factors like microorganisms to help break them down.
Which trash bag is better may still be subject to debate. Some people lean towards the side of ordinary biodegradable bags.
They state that compostable bags are too complex to be sustainable. Others claim it’s worth it if it reduces the level of plastic pollution.
As you might have come to notice, each bag has a few points in its corner. Though when it comes down to which bag is safer for the environment, I will have to go with compostable bags.
They break down under the right conditions. Also, there is no danger of producing a large amount of methane gas.
Compostable bags are still inconvenient and have a few flaws. In the foreseeable future, we may have the technology and sophistication to create a biodegradable material that is sturdy enough for everyday use. Until then, we are limited in our abilities, and all we can do is try as much to
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