Our planet’s future may be packed into a Biodegradable Bag

Justy Yu
7 min readMar 1, 2021

The development and perspectives of an innovative packaging solution:

A plastic bag has become the ultimate embodiment of environmental pollution and the current consumption crisis.

The more people buy, the more packaging they use. But not only is the plastic bag itself the leading pollution element. Its very manufacture requires technological and resource capacities which have a dramatic impact on the ecology. For example, the manufacture of only 14 plastic bags requires the same amount of oil as for a mile-worth amount of gasoline.

Plastic bags are expensive to produce and hard to recycle. Most of them end up on vast landfills causing unbelievable damage to local agriculture, the ecosystem, and the overall economy.

Let’s have a general overview of all the impact plastic bags have on our economy and environment to understand alternative packaging’s importance.

Environmental and economic facts about plastic bags

The way that plastic bags influence our life vividly demonstrates the overall consumption crisis in the world. For example, an average American family brings home at least 1500 plastic bags a year. 95% of them end up in landfills right after the purchase. Simultaneously, the overall consumption of plastic bags in America requires more than 12 million oil barrels to manufacture.

Now imagine all those natural resources, workforce, and technological capacities used to produce something that will end up in a dumpster right after being purchased.

But the impact of plastic bags on the environment does not end with its disposal. On the contrary, a simple plastic bag becomes most hazardous and money-consuming exactly when it appears in a dumpster.

Plastic bags cover the lands. They disrupt natural irrigation and poison groundwater, which leads to soil erosion. Eventually, farmers all over the world have to use much more water to maintain harvesting. In the worst-case scenario, we lose thousands of acres of fruitful soils to pollution caused by plastic bags and another packaging.

The impact on agriculture may be the most illustrative example of the economic effect of environmental pollution. However, it is not the most sinister and shocking one. The impact of plastic bags on the world ocean — the source of life, is ultimately devastating.

Plastic bags kill over 100,000 marine animals annually. This volume of unnatural deaths in the ocean destroys natural eco-balance, causing whole species to become extinct or migrate. It also has a significant economic effect as local fishers lose their businesses, driving the entire industry below the poverty line. The ecosystem misbalance leads to the change of marine landscape and shift of the coastline. This process endangers various coastal settlements, resorts, and whole cities, destroying local economies and jeopardizing numerous people’s lives.

Those are only some reasons why looking for alternative packaging solutions became a burning issue for almost every industry on the modern market. Biodegradable bags and packages may become an innovative solution for this issue, helping solve many problems at once, providing us with safe, accessible, and versatile packaging.

What is a biodegradable package, and how is it different from ordinary plastic?

The main distinctive feature of biodegradable bags is that they can decompose naturally. Unlike a standard plastic bag, which will take over 200 years to decompose, a biodegradable bag will break down like any organic material thanks to natural microorganisms’ effort.

Moreover, biodegradable bags’ very nature points out that they are not just less harmful to the environment but may appear to be beneficial. Produced from plant starches, they turn into natural fertilizers after decomposing. Since they don’t contain polyethylene or any other petroleum-derived elements, compostable bags are safe for the soil and ground waters.

How are biodegradable bags made?

The design and structure of compostable packaging foresee that it behaves entirely like any organic material. Durable and versatile enough for various purposes — from commercial packaging to garbage bags, biodegradable plastics decompose naturally once exposed to UV lights, bacteria, wind, or water abrasion for a certain period.

Moreover, the whole origin of biodegradable bags is a part of the recycling process. It is usually made out of starch, fruit and vegetable peels, corn oil, etc.

The manufacturing processes of biodegradable packaging and ordinary plastic may look the same. However, compostable bags are made according to technology that lets them dissolve naturally without causing any harm to the environment or living beings.

To produce biodegradable plastic, manufacturers restructure traditional petrochemicals to make them break down faster and safer. Using polybutylene succinate (PBS), polybutyrate adipate terephthalate (PBAT), polycaprolactone (PCL), and other naturally-derived elements, manufacturers create innovative materials. Being as durable, versatile, and agile as plastic is, those packages are safe, cheap, and easy to compost. Instead of costly utilizing technologies, you don’t need anything except for moist, air, bacteria, or UV lights to dispose of such a bag.

However, except for easy recycling, biodegradable and compostable bags have many other advantages than other synthetic packaging solutions.

Saving energy — saving lives:

Except for lots of chemicals and oil, the manufacture of traditional plastic bags requires lots of energy and production capacities. It inevitably leads to less obvious but still significant types of pollutions. Noise and light pollutions force animals to migrate or confuse them, destroying their natural lifespan.

A manufacturer will need almost 70% less energy and technical capacity to produce the same biodegradable bags. It means 70% less light, noise, and pollution caused by the factory. Add to this the fact that there is no need to search, dig out and transport hydrocarbons, and the impact difference becomes ultimately dramatic.

Same production, less waste:

Not only do biodegradable bags require fewer resources for manufacture, but they also cause significantly less waste.

Traditional plastic manufacture ends up in the production of more than 32 million tons of waste. And only 9% of this astonishing amount can become an object of safe and effective recycling. All the rest goes straight to landfills, soil, and the world ocean. In other words, traditional plastic starts to cause harm to the environment long before a plastic bag gets into a supermarket and ends up in a trash can.

Recycling of such plastic is incredibly resourceful. It requires vast technologies and assets and various awareness-raising campaigns, and the establishment of special garbage containers requires a lot of money and effort.

Biodegradable bag decomposes entirely only after 180 days. Even if the process is not complete after this period, it does not require any costly solutions to disappear from Earth’s face. Moist, bacteria and UV light will eventually do their job.

The economic benefit of the manufacture and use of Biodegradable bags:

With all its benefits, the manufacture of compostable packaging has one significant downside. The production of such materials still requires considerable investment from the beginning. There are several objective reasons for those costs:

· The development of biodegradable materials requires further scientific research;

· The manufacture of compostable bags in most areas remains on an introductory level that needs further development.

In other words, it is all about knowledge and experience. On the one hand, manufacturers know everything about standard plastic, its manufacture, and its use. Simultaneously, biodegradable materials’ true potential and perspectives remain in the grey area for numerous manufacturers and consumers.

But what we know for sure about standard plastic is that its continuous manufacture and use may lead our planet to environmental and economic collapse sooner than most of us can imagine. Plastic takes away lands, agricultural fields, natural resources. This process inevitably leads to economic stagnation, natural disasters, economic and social degradation.

Simultaneously, the manufacture and use of biodegradable bags provide new jobs and encourage innovative research and eco-friendly solutions. It can stimulate whole industries, inspiring and promoting innovative solutions in packaging, marketing, and advertising. Biodegradable packaging becomes an integral part of the conscious consumption concept, helping millions of people revise their purchase habits, develop financial literacy and give more thought to their lifestyle and its impact on the environment.

From exclusive fashion packaging to dog poop bags — packaging is everywhere. More than 80% of modern consumers claim that packaging plays an essential role in buying a new product or switching a brand. It means that following the developing trend of environmental awareness and eco-friendly consumption, biodegradable packaging becomes a significant reputation factor for numerous brands.

Biodegradable bags are not a novelty to the modern market. However, most brands and manufacturers considered them to be an indulgence until now. Today people are more aware of their impact on the environment and its long-term effect. Biodegradable bags give us a chance to revise our impact on the planet. Thanks to this technology and its further developments, our generation gets a chance to be the one that gave humanity an opportunity for a healthy and prosperous future.