Are bioplastics better for the environment than conventional plastics?

Confusion among terms like bioplastics, bio-based and biodegradable plastics makes it hard to discern — and make — the environmentally responsible choice.

Published on Ensia under a CC-BY-ND license

Have you ever stood in front of a supermarket shelf and wondered if you should buy that product made from bioplastics rather than the conventional kind? Many people assume all bioplastics are made from plants and can break down completely in the environment. But that’s not the case.

The term “bioplastics” is actually used for two separate things: bio-based plastics (plastics made at least partly from biological matter) and biodegradable plastics (plastics that can be completely broken down by microbes in a reasonable timeframe, given specific conditions). Not all bio-based plastics are biodegradable, and not all biodegradable plastics are bio-based. And even biodegradable plastics might not biodegrade in every environment. Sounds confusing? It certainly is.  Continue reading “Are bioplastics better for the environment than conventional plastics?”

Ep.6: Traces in the soil


Plastic pollution also affects the soil, the thin layer of ground that feeds all of us. For a long time, this terrestrial plastic has been overlooked. Now scientists are starting to investigate the extent and impacts of plastic pollution in the soil and in the ground. What do we know about them? In this episode, Anja talks to artist Saša Spačal from Slovenia, soil biologist Matthias Rillig from Germany, Brazilian environmental scientist Abel Machado and geologist Reinhold Leinfelder. She learns more about the potential impacts and traces plastic leaves behind in the ground.

Music: Dorian Roy and Blue Dot Sessions
Cover art: Maren von Stockhausen
Thanks to: Julie Comfort, Brooke Watkins, Sedat Gündoğdu, Sam Athey, and Joachim Budde for editing the German post on RiffReporter

>>>Transcript with links and media