Ever since plastics were invented in 1907, we’ve been using them customarily, and their use has spread to many industries that they’re commonplace already. With recent events, such as climate change and the harmful impact plastics have on the environment, something has to be done. But whilst plastic use has been so ingrained in our daily lives, it’s hard to break the habit.
Plastic straw has become one of humanity’s most visible symbols of reliance on single-use plastics. It is one of the major culprits causing so many environmental blunders. Although their use is harmless, their presence in the environment, especially in landfills, waterways and the ocean, has done irreversible damage to many marine species.
Not only that, but they’re chemical and health hazards causing health problems, such as cancer, endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. They also take hundreds, even thousands of years, before they completely break down. Add to this the fact that their breakdown components leech into the soil and are highly toxic.
The adverse effects of plastic straws outweigh their usage. Unsurprisingly, there has been a growing movement to ban them altogether. Small steps have been taken to address this increasing problem. However, gauging these positive steps’ impact is not easy.
One such questionable step is the move towards the usage of biodegradable straws. This brings us to four crucial questions:
- What is the difference between biodegradable and compostable?
- Are biodegradable straws better for the environment?
- What are biodegradable straws made of?
- Are there better alternatives?
At Bonnie Bio, we want you adequately informed before purchasing our products. We value commitment and integrity and uphold the protection of the environment.
Compostable vs Biodegradable
Let’s try to differentiate compostable and biodegradable to avoid confusion because one or the other may have a different connotation for people. Remember that all compostable products are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable products are compostable. The difference lies in the production materials, decomposition mode and residual elements.
Compostable products, such as those we produce in Bonnie Bio, are made from organic matter like cornstarch, potato starch, sugarcane and others. Polylactic acid (PLA) and polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) are synthetic substances that have plastic-like properties and are derived from these organic matter.
Compostable products decompose much faster than biodegradable products, usually taking only 180 days. During the process, 90% of organic matter breaks down into harmless substances, such as water and carbon dioxide. Composts also produce the nutrient-rich topsoil component called humus necessary for plant growth. In summary, compostables are toxin-free, decompose faster, and are harmless to organic life.
On the one hand, biodegradable products are made from polybutylene and its derivatives (PBAT and PBS), polycaprolactone (PCL) and PLA. Some products are still petroleum-based mixed with any of these derivatives.
As for their degradation rate, they break down faster than pure plastic taking around 3–6 months in the presence of bacteria, fungi, and algae. Moisture and temperature also hasten the breakdown process of biodegradable products. However, they break down into microplastics.
Microplastics are harmful because they’re still toxic and may leech into the soil. These micro-sized particles can also easily reach the ocean via wind and other bodies of water. Once in the ocean, marine animals may ingest them and cause accumulation. As they go higher up the food chain, they accumulate more and more, enhancing their toxicity. As these microplastics reach the top of the food chain, which are humans, they can cause chronic toxicity and may lead to other debilitating diseases.
Are Biodegradable Straws Better for the Environment?
The quick answer is yes, but it depends on one crucial factor: the components that make up biodegradable straws. Different types of biodegradable straws are being produced globally and are slowly replacing the plastic straw we’re privy to using. Each straw type has different degradation rates and can be safe for the environment at varying degrees if correctly disposed of.
The types are the following:
- Paper straws
- PLA straws
- PVOH straws
- Starch straws (rice, potato, cornstarch)
- Bamboo straws
What Are Biodegradable Straws Made of?
Biodegradable straws can be made of different components depending on the organic matter or the synthetic polymers. Polybutylene plastic derivatives are standard components of biodegradable straws, but there has been a shift in most production companies to PLA, which is both biodegradable and compostable. Remember that whilst biodegradability is eco-friendly to a certain degree, it has its downside, which comes in the form of microplastic pollution in the soil and land.
Are There Better Alternatives?
There are a lot of alternatives to biodegradable straws, such as reusable straws made of glass and stainless steel. However, they may fetch a hefty price and risk accidental injury to their users.
A better alternative is using 100% compostable straws that work just as well as traditional plastics that you can’t even tell the difference. Not to mention, it’s 100% toxin free and doesn’t leach any toxic components into the soil or water. It also breaks down into the water, carbon dioxide and organic matter that is harmless to the environment. Our Bonnie Bio compostable straws tick all these boxes and guarantee your safety and the environment’s safety. Get your supplies now.