Written by Sharon on .

Biodegradable plastic bags are often made from farmed products like cornstarch, which, in the right conditions, will break down into elements like carbon dioxide, water and methane. Biodegradable bags are generally best suited to composting and may contribute to methane emissions if sent to landfill. To meet international standards, bags need to compost within 12 weeks and fully biodegrade within 6 months. Biodegradable bags are not suited to recycling.

Other degradable plastic bags break down primarily through the reaction of a chemical additive to oxygen, light or heat and are also known as 'oxodegradable' bags. Best suited to landfill disposal, they are also likely to survive long enough to present a threat to animals if littered. As it may take time for them to break down and even when they do, it is into smaller pieces which may pose a threat to animals who mistake the pieces for food.

It's important for Shoppers and Retailers to understand the difference between these bags and the impact they can have on the environment. Replacement of normal plastic with degradable and biodegradable bags is not encouraged by governments as part of the planned phase-out, as neither is a solution to plastic bag litter.

Standards Australia has developed Australian Standards for biodegradable plastics. As these standards are implemented over the coming years, shoppers and retailers will be able to distinguish which bags meet the standards. Meanwhile, ask your supplier some detailed questions to make sure you get what you want:

  • What are the bags made from and how do they degrade?
  • How long will the bags take to break down in their intended disposal environment?
  • Will customers know how to dispose of them e.g. are they clearly labelled as compostable or landfill compatible?
  • Can the supplier provide you with data from any testing completed to back-up their claims about degradability? For example, does the product pass relevant international Standards, such as the European composting/biodegradability standard known as EN 13432.

Make a statement to use biodegradable plastic bags for your convention, business or educational workshop!

Order what you need:
It's helpful to know that biodegradable plastic bags break down when exposed to outdoor conditions like heat, sunlight or natural microorganisms. Storage and shelf life is important to factor into your ordering as in as little as three years (depending on the micron thickness), your bags may begin to disintegrate without releasing harmful gases or toxins! This is their intended purpose, so buying the right quantity is necessary.

We are happy to discuss any aspects of the design or production process, also look forward to helping you receive a commercially and environmentally beneficial solution.