According to a new study, bioplastics are just as toxic as ordinary or traditional plastics.

Plastic is the third most commonly used petroleum derivative in the world. Each year around 200 million tons of plastic are consumed on the planet. As the usage of plastic was growing in our lives, more and more research about the impact of using so much plastic started coming to light. Consumers and manufacturers then began to scramble for an alternative to the ubiquitous material that can emerge as a potential alternative.

Thus, the concept of bioplastics came into the world. At a glance, the name sounds promising, with a prefix that hints at an Earth-friendly product. The term ‘bioplastics’ can basically be understood in two ways: Bio-based plastics and biodegradable plastics. But a new study suggests that bioplastics, made from biological material, are just as toxic as ordinary or traditional plastics.

The new study suggests that bioplastics are not any safer than traditional plastics, they are as toxic as conventional plastics. In recent years, bioplastics have come into the market as an alternative. They are typically made from recycled material or plant cellulose and are biodegradable. Bioplastics promise a number of advantages over conventional plastic that is produced through fossil fuels but carry just as much toxic content as regular plastic.

Bioplastics are not what you believe

In recent years, bioplastics are considered as an alternative to conventional plastic. Though they have certain advantages like they are usually made from recycled material or plant cellulose, and are biodegradable in nature. But the new study reveals that these safer assumed plastics are not non-toxic.

According to a new report, published in the journal Environment International, researchers examined 43 different bioplastic products, including single-use cutlery, chocolate bar wrappers, soda bottles, and wine corks. The scientists examined all 43 products using a genetic analysis known as in vitro bioassays, as well as spectrometry, a kind of analysis that observes a material’s interactions with light. 

The observations suggested that about 80 percent of the products contained more than 1,000 different chemicals, and some included as many as 20,000 chemicals. It was observed that not all chemicals were bad, but the researchers when tested the toxicity of the materials found that many bioplastics and plant-based materials when compared to conventional plastics induced baseline toxicity. The researchers also found that the products examined were similar to traditional plastics.

What are bioplastics? Are they really an alternative to ordinary plastic?

Bioplastic simply refers to plastic made from plants or other biological material instead of petroleum. It is also often called bio-based plastic. Bioplastics can just be as durable as other types of plastic, as they only break down in specific conditions. There are obviously a few advantages of using bioplastics as they reduce carbon footprint and do not contain additives that are harmful to health.

Bioplastics expanded its use in various sectors such as the medical and food industry. But it’s important to note that many people assume that all bioplastics are made from plants can break down completely in the environment. But that’s not the case.

All bio-based plastics are not biodegradable, and not all biodegradable plastics are bio-based. And even biodegradable plastics might not biodegrade in every environment. Sounds confusing? Of course! Therefore, it can be said that all types of bioplastics are good for the environment. Bioplastics, like all plastics, commonly contain chemicals that are largely unregulated, even though many are known to cause cancer, reproductive health problems, and other serious diseases.

Main focus of the study

The new study aimed to investigate the toxicity of bioplastics, chemical composition, and plant-based materials and compared them with traditional plastics. During the course of the study, it was revealed that the end products of the bioplastic contain higher toxicity and a broader range of chemicals when compared to the raw materials from which they were produced.

The study indirectly implies that new substances are produced or added at the time of converting the raw material into the end product. However, it should be noted that each biodegradable and bio-based product has its own “individual” chemical composition.

Is it safe to trust bioplastics for further use?

At present, it very uncertain to state the consequences of the use of bioplastics on the environment and on people’s health. It is still not clear that to what extend these chemicals present in the bioplastics are harmful to humans and their surroundings.

There are so many factors that come into play to decide whether the alternatives to bioplastics and conventional plastics are better for us and the environment around us. The alternatives may involve polluting production methods and limited opportunities for recycling, and therefore it becomes necessary for scientists to do more research and look for ways in order to find an alternative to these plastics that really harm human health and their surroundings.  

By Mahima Joshi

Mahima Joshi is a writer at The Wonk. She is a postgraduate in Journalism, who is just curious about everything that is happening around. She is an enthusiastic reader especially concerning gender dynamics in mythological stories.

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