‘Biodegradable’ plastic bags still function after three years: researchers

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Dr. Mohini Sain, professor at the University of Toronto and Director of the Centre for Biocomposites and Biomaterials Processing, told CTV News in an email that there is “no clear definition of biodegradability” in Canada, and that if products claim to be biodegradable then they should “specify the time period to complete biodegradation.”

“Biodegradability, in general terms is an end of life option…normally it should not take a long time or it should biodegrade in an environmentally responsible manner within a specified and short time period.”

Sain said that in the past, companies in Canada used pure PLA (bio-based poly-lactic acid polymer) to make plastic bags that would have been biodegradable in a composting medium – but that he was unsure if the practice was ongoing.

Unlike biodegradability, Canada’s compostable certification is “well established,” with clear definitions for products to adhere to, Sain added.

In the fight against plastic pollution, Sain says that “we do not need all plastics to be biodegradable,” as “no bio-plastics get 100% biodegraded within a short time period…and in all cases they need specific environments” to fully break down.

Instead, Sain says that community efforts to compost and reuse biodegraded materials, along with public education, are essential.

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CTV News Interview: Biodegradables

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