In today's world, plastic is ubiquitous, serving as the backbone of numerous industries due to its versatility and cost-effectiveness. However, the environmental cost of our reliance on plastic is substantial and multifaceted. This blog aims to explain the detrimental impacts of plastic waste, particularly in landfills, and contrast these effects with the benefits of adopting biodegradable and compostable alternatives. 

Understanding the Plastic Waste Problem 

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), we produce about 300 million tons of plastic waste every year, a staggering amount that is equivalent to the weight of the entire human population (UNEP - UN Environment Programme). Every year, 19-23 million tons of this waste leak into aquatic ecosystems, severely impacting marine life and ecosystems (UNEP - UN Environment Programme). Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues, with staggering amounts of plastic waste generated annually. 

The Journey of Plastic to Landfills 

After its short-use phase, a sizable portion of plastic waste ends up in landfills. In the U.S., for example, about 75% of discarded plastics are directed to landfills (Our World in Data). Here, it remains for centuries, failing to decompose within human lifespans. The breakdown process of conventional plastics in landfills is exceedingly slow due to the lack of sunlight, air, and moisture, which are essential for the degradation process. 

Environmental Impacts on Landfills 

In landfills, plastic waste poses several environmental problems: 

  1. Leaching of Toxic Substances: Plastics contain various additives, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which can leach into the soil and groundwater, posing risks to wildlife and human health. Exposure to these chemicals can affect fertility, hormonal, metabolic, and neurological functions (UN News). 
  1. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: As some plastics degrade, they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that significantly contributes to global warming. The production and degradation of plastics are expected to double by 2040, intensifying their impact on climate change and nature loss (UN News). 
  1. Landfill Space Issues: Plastics occupy valuable landfill space, reducing the capacity for other waste and increasing the need for more landfills, which in turn affects local ecosystems and communities. 

The Benefits of Biodegradable and Compostable Alternatives 

Transitioning to biodegradable and compostable materials offers a promising solution to the plastic waste crisis. These materials are designed to break down more quickly and safely when disposed of properly. 

  • Biodegradable Plastics: Biodegradable plastics can decompose naturally in the environment. This decomposition depends on the conditions present, such as temperature, moisture, and the presence of microorganisms. Ideally, these plastics break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass, leaving no toxic residue (sdg.iisd). 
  • Compostable Plastics: Compostable plastics go a step further; they break down within a composting setting. These plastics are converted into carbon dioxide, water, and compost, a nutrient-rich material beneficial for the soil (sdg.iisd). 

Environmental Benefits 

The adoption of biodegradable and compostable alternatives has several environmental benefits: 

  • Reduced Dependency on Fossil Fuels: Biodegradable plastics are often derived from renewable resources like plant starches, cellulose, and other natural materials, which can significantly reduce the dependency on non-renewable petroleum-based resources. This shift not only conserves finite natural resources but also aligns with sustainable development goals (plastics-technology) (Shrink That Footprint). 
  • Decreased Greenhouse Gas Emissions: By decomposing more quickly than conventional plastics, biodegradable materials can reduce methane emissions in landfills. Moreover, since they are derived from renewable resources, the overall carbon footprint during their production is often lower compared to traditional plastics (Shrink That Footprint). 
  • Improved Soil Health: Compostable plastics break down into compost that can enhance soil structure, moisture retention, and nutrient content. This compost can then be used to enrich soil, contributing to healthier agricultural practices, and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers (plastics-technology) (Shrink That Footprint). 

Practical Solutions with MyEcoWorld® 

In the pursuit of sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics, it is crucial to spotlight practical products that are already making a difference. MyEcoWorld® stands at the forefront of this initiative with its range of products that cater to everyday needs while prioritizing the planet's health. 

  • Compostable Food and Yard Waste Bags: MyEcoWorld® offers compostable bags designed for food and yard waste, encouraging more households and businesses to divert organic waste from landfills to composting facilities. This not only aids in reducing methane emissions from landfills but also supports the production of high-quality compost that can enrich the soil, promoting healthier plant growth and restoring nutrient cycles naturally. 
  • Poop Bags: Pet owners can also contribute to environmental sustainability through MyEcoWorld®'s poop bags.  

The shift from conventional plastics to biodegradable and compostable alternatives is not just necessary but imminent. As consumers become more environmentally conscious and regulations tighten, the demand for sustainable materials will continue to grow. To mitigate the impact of plastic on our environment, it is crucial for industries, governments, and individuals to support and adopt these greener alternatives. 


MyEcoWorld Blog Home Button

Emma Doran