Why are biobased and biodegradable plastic not part of the solution to reduce plastic waste?

(also available in Bahasa, and Thai)

Disposable, single-use packaging is convenient from the perspective of consumers. This holds true, for example, for takeaway food packaging. However, the high amounts of plastic consumed entail various negative impacts. In a dilemma between ecological perspectives on single-use plastic and the convenience that this type of plastic packaging offers, biobased and biodegradable plastic have been discussed as an alternative to fossil-based plastics for quite some time. Environmental benefits are often attributed to biobased and biodegradable plastic because “bio” is understood to mean “environmentally friendly”. They are perceived as suitable substitutes for conventional plastics whose environmental impacts have been widely researched. However, this supposed solution implies various consequences and problems. A one-to-one substitution of conventional plastic with biodegradable or biobased plastic is too narrow. It neither leads to any changes in waste volumes nor a reduction of the associated environmental impacts in the long run. The background and reasoning of this assessment and analysis is part of this report.

Clara Löw (Oeko-Institut) Siddharth Prakash (Oeko-Institut) Kevin Stuber-Rousselle (Oeko-Institut)
Preventing Single used Plastic