First, let’s go back to the basics and focus on the different types of plastic. Fossil-based plastics and bioplastics come in different varieties. In general, we distinguish between four types:
1) Biobased and non-biodegradable, so-called “drop-in” (bio-PE and bio-PET)
2) Biobased and (naturally or industrially) biodegradable (PLA, PHA, PBS and corn starch blends)
3) Fossil-based and non-biodegradable (ABS, PC, PS, ASA, PB)
4) Fossil-based and (industrially) biodegradable (PBAT, PCL)
The first two are bioplastics that share the same characteristics as regular plastic, except for the fact that the basic molecules come from natural resources such as starch from potatoes and corn, sugar, cellulose, lactic acid or proteins. The major benefits of biobased plastics are that they reduce our dependence on fossil resources and, contrary to fossil-based plastics, are climate-neutral.
Some bioplastics are naturally compostable; in water, outside air, soil or a combination thereof. Then there are bioplastics that are degradable, but not in nature. Whatever type you use, reuse and recycling are viable options for bioplastics as well. In fact, this is actively encouraged by various government institutions.
The third type of plastic is fossil-based and non-biodegradable. Most plastic falls into this category. The fourth type is fossil-based and has specific characteristics that make it biodegradable. At the moment, this type of plastic is made from virgin resources. In the future, the goal is to use residual materials and waste streams for its production as well.