What makes a plastic eco-friendly?

There is, increasingly, a lot of 'greenwash' out there about what a ‘green’ plastic is and what's not. There are biodegradable plastics, recycled plastics, plant-based bioplastics, and they are all 'green' to an extent. We acknowledge It is not always easy to get it clear in your mind what is eco-friendly and what is not.

This issue is what we call the ‘plastics problem’. This problem is concerned with the fact that we make plastic out of fossil fuels – specifically oil, but because crude oil takes millions of years to form, once we’ve used it all up there’s no more to be had. Oil is used in a host of things: from plastic, to petrol, and we're already seeing the price of these things rise as oil gets more and more scarce.

The secondary problem caused by this continua consumption of resources from the earth is that we keep on using plastic and putting it into landfill, this inturn is increasing the pressure to find alternative means of disposing of waste.

Biodegradable plastic

Biodegradable plastic is good in that it tackles the landfill problem. It is essentially plastic that will rot down over time, sometimes over centuries, and form compost. However, biodegradable plastic is not recyclable – it is meant to either go into landfill or into a composting centre, and in fact, one biodegradable bottle in a load of other perfectly recyclable plastic will contaminate it all so that none can be recycled.

The other thing we don’t like is that biodegradable plastic addresses the secondary landfill problem, however, it doesn’t get to the root of the real plastics problem. In short, biodegradable waste is a ‘greener’ waste than standard plastic bottles – it eventually makes compost, as opposed to staying plastic for ever after.

Recycled plastic

We prefer recycled plastics because it means they can be reused, and recycled, time and time again with no deterioration. Whilst we are extracting oil out of the earth to make plastic, why, when we’ve finished using the plastic, are we throwing the plastic back into the earth again?

That’s why we have created an Activ range that we can recycle – to make the most of what we’ve already extracted from the earth. Our standard Activ-bottles and Activ-PLUS bottles all contain a percentage of recycled material, approximately 35%. Recycled plastics do not really have any negatives- it does take energy to reprocess the plastic, but nowhere near as much as is needed to extract oil from the earth and make that into plastic.

Bioplastic

Our Activ-R comes from bioplastic, which we like best because it strikes right at the heart of this plastics problem. There is an alternative, sustainable source to making plastic out of finite fossil fuels, specifically our process means making the plastic our of sugar cane.

As previously mentioned, scientists say that oil will run out. We have a long-range view of our environment and the world we live in, and as long as we can grow sugar cane- we will be able to produce our unique Activ-R. At the moment, bioplastic is more expensive than standard due to the small quantities of plastic made in this way, but there will come a time when oil is so expensive that the demand for – and therefore, supply of - bioplastic, will bring its price right down.

Furthermore, because bioplastic is made from plant material, these plants lock away carbon dioxide as they grow, and only some of that carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere during the processing of the plastic. This means that many bioplastic products - Activ-R included - have a negative carbon footprint, in that they are actually helping to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. That in turn will help to combat the greenhouse effect, which leads to global warming. Obviously the impact of one water bottle is negligible, but using bioplastic products is a tiny, but definite, step towards sustainability.