29 Jul Plastic Free
We spoke in the previous news of the European Directive, approved on June the 5th , aimed to drastically reduce plastic from marine litter. Once published, Member States must translate it into concrete initiatives that, within the reasonable time of two years, will lead to the goal to avoid the usage of disposable tableware at European level from 2021.
For some products such as plastic bottles, the application of the directive will result in different actions. For example there will be a separate collection from other plastic materials, a presence of a substantial percentage of recycled material (which must be 30%), the use of caps of the same type, (subsequently not separable from the container), the participation of the producers for the implementation of effective end-of-life collection and cleaning of polluted areas with concrete financial contributions, the implementation of awareness-raising campaigns for the consumer, which make him aware that improper disposal has serious repercussions on the environment.
It is important at this stage to distinguish biodegradable plastics and compostable ones, terms often used as synonyms. All materials are biodegradable or they are attacked by microorganisms and atmospheric agents that break them down over time into water, carbon dioxide and methane: the difference is the time it takes for this to happen. The plastic itself has very long times.
The European standard EN 13432 of 2002 established that a plastic material is biodegradable only if this process occurs at 90% within 6 months. Not all materials, on the other hand, are compostable: a material is defined as such if it turns into compost within 3 months, which can be used as a natural fertilizer. This confusion has meant that unsuitable bags are often used for the collection of the wet fraction: in fact, a bag is only used if it contains both words, biodegradable and compostable.
Other issues must be resolved before reaching the plastic free target. The first concerns fresh products ready for consumption: by eliminating the disposable plastic, more refrigerated counters will have to be used and this will increase the emissions that induce climatic alterations. Furthermore, biodegradable and compostable plastics should be preserved, but there is no a real explicit reference in the European directives.
Continuing, another sector touched by is that of catering, which greatly benefits from disposable products. It allows him, in fact, not to wash and manage the dishes, having less staff, lower costs and therefore the possibility of offering products at lower prices. For this sector, a change of trend means having to revise its operating structure in economic terms, keeping prices unchanged for the consumer: a challenge that requires the participation of producers and legislation in order to find solutions in line with plastic free at affordable prices.
Polylactic acid or PLA, the polymer of lactic acid, has been chosen in the EU Often as a choice for biodegradable plastics. This is not in itself biodegradable, but it becomes so under certain conditions: it requires a temperature of at least 60 ° C and a humidity of at least 20%. Consequently, as it has been possible to verify from the experience of various European nations, it is necessary to have an adequate collection and disposal circuit, in addition to adequately informing the user to recognize and dispose of it correctly, because the information on the label is generally not enough.
The studies and the consequent actions to be undertaken are therefore multiple to reach the right balance and be really effective in the fight against pollution induced by plastic waste, without triggering other dangerous repercussions.