KESANOVA would like to sell paper carrier bags to supermarkets in Macedonia, and large supermarket chains have already had the quote of the century. At least, that’s how we see it at KESANOVA. They refuse however, and that’s understandable. Plastic bags are cheap, and plastic has many good properties.
However, there are also some misconceptions in circulation which may cause the merchants to cling too much to plastic bags. For example, we recently met a marketing manager who seriously believed her supermarket chain was green because it only used bioplastics bags.
But it does not necessarily make a difference to climate and the environment that it says “bio” on a bag, or that it is called a bioplastics bag or similar.
What does “bio” mean on a plastic bag
You will probably offend no one by saying that “bio” is a word printed on bags, so that both the merchant and the consumer can feel that they are on the right side in the climate battle. Sometimes the feeling is based on false assumptions, other times it is so to a lesser extent. Sometimes the merchant knows well, other times he or she does not.
In the market you will find plastic bags:
– made of biomass (plants) and biodegradable.
– made of biomass (plants) but NOT biodegradable.
– made of fossil material (oil) and biodegradable.
– made of fossil material (oil) but NOT biodegradable.
The last type is the type of plastic bags we knew in the old days. It is the only type where a printed “bio” would be completely wrong. For the other three types, one will find “bio” printed on the bag and often in composition with another word – “biodegradable” or “bioplastics” for example.
Therefore, if a bag is called a bioplastic bag, it does not necessarily mean that it can be degraded biologically. It might just mean that it is made of biomass.
“Biodegradable” does not mean “naturally degradable”
No conventional plastic bag can be degraded in nature, regardless of whether the plastic is made of biomass or fossil material. Nature’s microorganisms cannot break down plastic within a humanly comprehensible span of time. Plastic is plastic.
However, when biodegradable plastic is found, it is because one can add some substances to the plastic that enable microorganisms to break down the plastic. However, it takes some particularly favorable conditions – oxygen, adjust humidity and temperature – to break down the plastic biologically. This requires an industrial composting plant.
Such a plant – as far as we have understood – does not exist in Northern Macedonia.
Obviously, oxygen is crucial when biodegradation of plastics is required. If biodegradable plastic ends up in the sea or on the bottom of the Vardar or the lakes, it makes no difference that it is biodegradable. It will stay approximately forever. Archaeologists will break their brains in the future, as to why our time has equipped plastics with a printed “biodegradable” and then dumped it in the water.