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PLA Biodegradable Specification

Due to the damage that waste plastic is doing to the environment, toward the end of 2017 we took the decision to discontinue all of our fossil fuel based polypropylene bags and replace them with greener biodegradable and compostable alternatives where-ever possible. As the old stocks run out we will only be offering sustainable alternatives instead - to be more in keeping with our ecological and sustainable ethos of our recycled paper products.

 

Although many of our customers have been using our Biofilm bags since we launched them about 5 years ago, for those of you who are new to the material, the following information should help to explain the differences between polypropylene bags and their new greener replacements.

 

Subcatagories

       

 

BIODEGRADATION:

All our Biofilm bags are made in the UK from film that has been accredited to ‘OK biobased’ and DIN EN 13432. They are made from corn / potato starch and are fully biodegradable and compostable, breaking down to CO2 and H2O and ecotoxicity free biomass (compost). The corn / potato starch these bags are made from is derived from an annually renewable crop, as opposed to crude oil based plastics which are non-renewable. Thereby offering a greener alternative to polypropylene etc

In appearance many end users will find the Biofilm bags almost identical to the old polypropylene bags. And in normal UK retail conditions they are quite stable – they are designed to break down by composting at ‘end of life’. As a guide, the film specs state that it takes approx 45 days for them to decompose at a constant 58°C (similar to that found in industrial composting) although home composting will be at a lower temperature and will take longer

 

SHELF LIFE:

The shelf life of Biofilm in ideal conditions (at room temperature, kept away from humidity and direct sunlight) should be up to 12 months, but may well be a good bit longer (Some of our original corn starch bags lasted longer but the new potato starch bags were only launched last year so until they start to degrade we don't have a definitive time scale). The main thing to maximise shelf life, is to avoid exposure to humidity and excessive heat, moisture and light. So, realistically in normal shop use you should get many months if not a year or more before any degradation could start to show. Biofilm bags are also very stable should they be splashed with water - they don't start to degrade immediately so if wiped off promptly they should come to no harm. Exposure to bright direct sunlight such as in a shop window can result in degradation / discolouration over time, however this is only likely to be a problem in extreme conditions.

 

BIOFILM LIMITATIONS:

Although biofilm (PLA) is quite a versatile material there are some jobs for which it is not suitable. It is more brittle and marks more easily than polypropylene - so is not robust enough for heavy or sharp items. It also needs to be handled with a little more care than polypropylene while packing cards etc. (Hopefully in the future they will be able to develop a more robust version of biofilm.) Also it is not water proof so is not suitable for containing wet products. (If splashed with water and wiped off straight away they should come to no harm).

Biofilm can't be used for archival purposes and we cannot guarantee them to be 'acid free' for use with valuable paintings etc. The bio-film only comes in rolls wide enough to make A4 size bags so currently we can't offer A3 size, we do expect larger rolls to be available in the future.

 

SELF SEAL STRIPS:

Although the Biofilm bags are compostable, the current batch of peel off strips are the same as those used on polypropylene bags. So at present these strips are not compostable but we are working with our supplier towards a biodegradable solution. We’re looking at manufacturing trials with a new material - so hopefully something for the future. Unfortunately though, they're likely to cost a bit more per bag so we are also looking at other options.

 

OXO-DEGRADATION:

There has recently been some confusion between bio-film (PLA) and oxo-degradable plastics. Oxo- degradables are conventional plastics with additives to assist their disintegration into micro-plastic particles. You can therefore be assured that we DO NOT supply oxo-degradable plastics. All of our Biofilm (PLA) and Cellulose bags are biodegradable and compostable – they are NOT oxo-degradable!

According to the Bio-Based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA) recent newsletter Oxo degradable plastics are NOT bioplastics. "Oxo degradables are conventional plastics with additives to assist their disintegration into micro-plastic particles. Under USA usage, but also in other countries around the world, it is illegal practice to call these plastics biodegradable. Indeed, the European Commission in their 16th January 2018 Plastics Strategy declared they will take measures to limit the use of Oxo plastics in the EU. See http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/pdf/oxoplastics.pdf ".

If disposed of irresponsibly this material can break down into small particles which are the sort of plastic particles shown getting into the food chain on recent news articles and Blue Planet II. Therefore we will not be stocking any of this material and hopefully the current greenwash from the conventional plastic bag trade about oxo-degradable plastics will come to be seen for what it really is. To see a copy of the BBIA report see http://bbia.org.uk/faq and please feel free to pass it on.

 

COMPOSTABLE BAG DISPOSAL:

1) Compost Heap: This is what they are designed for so is the best option. (They are suitable for both home and industrial composting) 

2) Council Garden waste bin: Although this would work you would need to check with your local council to ensure that that this waste is going for industrial composting. (Also you could end up 'at odds' with the council for putting what they could view to be the wrong waste in the bin.)

3) Food Waste Bin: This would also be suitable but once again it might be best to check what the council is doing with this waste. (The bags are suitable for anaerobic digestion or industrial composting, if they will allow you to put them in).

4) General Waste Bin: Although possibly not viewed as the perfect option, in landfill they will break down to CO2 and water in much the same way as they would in a compost heap.

5) Recycled Paper and Card Bin: They should not go in with paper for recycling.

6) Recycled Plastic Bag Collections: They should not go in this bin either. Biodegradable and compostable film is made from renewable plant materials, not petrochemicals. It is designed to break down to CO2 and H2O so leaves nothing suitable for recycling unlike traditional plastic bottles etc.

Hopefully this will enable you to choose the best option for environmentally responsible disposal of the biodegradable bags.

 

THE BIOFILM (PLA) CYCLE:

Biofilm or PLA (Poly-Lactic-Acid) is obtained from corn, potato or other starch/sugar sources.

These plants grow by photo-synthesis, absorbing CO2 from the air, minerals and water from the soil and the energy from the sun;

The starch and sugar content of the plants is converted into lactic acid by micro-organisms by fermentation;

Lactic acid is polymerized and becomes poly-lactic acid (PLA);

PLA is extruded into film and becomes flexible Biofilm packaging;

Once used Biofilm is composted into CO2, water and biomass;

Compost, CO2 and water are then used by plants, and so the cycle continues.

 

BIOFILM (PLA) GM FREE?

Our biodegradable (PLA) film is made from starch derived from potatoes / corn or other vegetables. These corn or potato crops are not grown just to make the PLA bags so the 'raw materials' are likely to have been sourced from a range of different producers and processing companies. With the wide spread use of GM products, we must therefore assume it probable that at least a small percentage of this starch could have originated from GM crops or from non GM crops contaminated by proximity to a GM crop. Therefore we cannot guarantee 100% that these bags will be completely GM free. 

 

SPECIAL MAKINGS:

It is possible to have bags made to your own requirements subject to a minimum order of 5000 pieces. It is also possible to have Biofilm (PLA) bags supplied suitable for food use. For more information you can contact us at sales@eco-craft.co.uk

 

IN CONCLUSION:

We believe that in a world where some single use plastics will inevitably end up in landfill or worse still, littering the countryside, truly biodegradable and compostable bags offer a sensible alternative packaging solution, which genuinely cares for the environment and can contribute to solving the

problem posed by the disposal of single use plastics. So although biodegradable bags can work out a bit more expensive than polypropylene bags they come with a far lower cost to the environment.

 

For more independent information about the environmental impact of plastics the following websites should be of help:

Greenpeace https://www.greenpeace.org.uk

Friends of the earth https://friendsoftheearth.uk

Wrap http://www.wrap.org.uk

BBIA http://bbia.org.uk and http://bbia.org.uk/faq/#myth_buster