8 Biodegradable Materials that can be used to save the planet
Biodegradable materials refer to materials that can be safely disposed of in the natural environment, undergoing complete decomposition and breakdown with the assistance of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi found in soil.
A truly biodegradable material should fully decompose within a year without leaving any residues or traces. As we strive for more sustainable lifestyles, we are increasingly seeking reusable, zero-waste, and eco-friendly materials and products to address the significant waste crisis we face.
While there are numerous options available, not all of them live up to their claims. To help you navigate through the choices, we have curated a list of the top biodegradable materials and where to find them.
What are Biodegradable Plastics?
Biodegradable plastics, in particular, have gained attention due to the urgent need for alternatives to conventional plastics. Conventional plastics, derived from fossil fuels, contribute to pollution through extraction and manufacturing processes. Moreover, only a small fraction of plastic is currently recycled, leading to extensive environmental harm and accumulation in landfills and oceans.
What are Bio-plastics?
Bio-plastics offer a promising solution, as they are made from plant-based raw materials and are biodegradable. However, not all bioplastics are created equal. For instance, Polylactic acid (PLA) is a widely used bio-plastic that has its limitations. While its manufacturing process generates less pollution and it utilizes a carbon-neutral resource like corn, PLA requires specific conditions—high temperatures and oxygen levels—to biodegrade effectively. This means that without access to specialized composting facilities, PLA behaves similarly to conventional plastics in home compost bins, landfills, and the natural environment, taking years to break down.
Some PLA plastic bags have been found intact after several years in the natural environment, including in the ocean, highlighting the misconception surrounding their biodegradability.
Types of BioPlastics
Fortunately, there are other types of bio-plastics that fully biodegrade in less than a year under regular composting conditions. These newer bio-plastics, though less commonly used than PLA, are fully compostable at home, in landfills, and in the natural environment. Some of them even incorporate agricultural waste or by-products, reducing costs and making them competitive with conventional plastics and PLA
Biodegradable Materials - Bamboo Cutlery Set
Bamboo is an entirely natural and rapidly renewable resource that thrives in various climates. It is a crop that regenerates after harvesting, eliminating the need for replanting. This makes it beneficial for soil health and requires less water compared to other timber crops.
Bamboo serves as an excellent alternative to plastic and has replaced it in various products, ranging from baby wet wipes and toothbrushes (best used with zero-waste toothpaste and mouthwash tablets, of course!) to eco-friendly utensils, cutlery, and tableware.
Bamboo has gained immense popularity as a versatile material. It is utilized in numerous products, including textiles (such as viscose, which may be made from Bamboo fibers), reusable cutlery, drinking straws, water bottles, furniture, paper, and many more.
Cork is an extraordinary material sourced from the bark of the Cork Oak (Quercus suber) tree. It possesses remarkable qualities such as being lightweight, waterproof, buoyant, elastic, and even fire-retardant. Due to its versatility, cork serves as an excellent alternative to plastics, foam, leather, wood, and certain fabrics.
Notably, cork is fully biodegradable and recyclable. It is harvested from mature trees without the need for cutting them down, making it an exceptionally sustainable crop. Interestingly, after the bark is harvested, Cork Oaks absorb more carbon as they intensify their growth to regenerate the bark!
Cork exhibits immense versatility and finds application in a wide range of products. It can be found in various items, including wine bottle corks, flooring, purses, wallets, shoe soles, insulation, coasters, building blocks, buoys, musical instruments, and sports equipment. It serves as an excellent replacement for plastic and leather, providing a waterproof and flexible solution.
3. Tipa Bio-plastic Polymers
Biodegradable Materials - Tipa Plastic - IG
Tipa specializes in producing resin, multi-layer film structures, and laminates for various packaging needs. These materials offer sealability, transparency, waterproofing, and printability.
Tipa bio-plastics are fully biodegradable and can be composted at home, as they are made from plant-based materials that decompose similar to organic matter.
Tipa plastic is predominantly used as an alternative to plastic packaging in the food and fashion industries. It finds its place in a wide range of products, including garment bags, bread bags, salad packs, laminates for tea bags, and zipper bags.
Biodegradable Mycelium Lamps
Mycelium refers to the fibrous root structure of mushroom fungi. It is cultivated in molds using agricultural by-products and waste materials (such as shredded corn stems, hemp hurds) to provide structure and nutrients. Mycelium rapidly grows into the desired shape or form dictated by the mold. Once fully grown, it is baked to eliminate the fungi, resulting in a highly versatile, durable, and even edible material!
Mycelium is fully biodegradable, compostable, and manufactured using agricultural waste, making it an environmentally friendly option.
Mycelium serves as an alternative to Styrofoam, plastic foam, wood composites, and plastics. It excels in thermal insulation and protective packaging, acting as a waterproof replacement for Styrofoam packaging. Mycelium is also utilized in various other products, including soap dishes, seed starter trays, planter pots, and cooler boxes.
Biodegradable Materials - Hemp Throw Pillows
Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis (C. sativa) plant cultivated specifically for industrial purposes. Similar to bamboo, hemp grows rapidly and thrives in various climates. It has been used as a natural fiber for textiles for over 50,000 years. Additionally, the plant material can be refined into various forms and finds applications in a wide range of products.
Hemp is entirely biodegradable and a highly sustainable crop. It requires minimal water usage, grows in diverse environments, and necessitates limited pesticide usage. Furthermore, hemp is a renewable resource due to its exceptionally fast growth.
Hemp is utilized in numerous commercial uses, including yarn and textiles for clothing and home furnishings, rope, and paper production. It also contributes to the manufacturing of paint, insulation, biofuel, and biodegradable plastics. More recently, hemp oil has become a key ingredient in products like soaps and cosmetics.
Jute, derived from the resilient Jute plant (Corchorus sp.), is a natural plant fiber renowned for its versatility. Predominantly recognized for its use in burlap and hessian, it is among the most abundantly produced and cost-effective natural fibers, second only to cotton. Beyond its applications in burlap and hessian, Jute finds its way into the creation of exquisite, high-quality items. Jute fabric is especially favored for crafting rugs and clothing. Notably, Jute holds remarkable ecological value as it is completely biodegradable and can be composted at home. Thriving effortlessly and resistant to pests and diseases, Jute requires minimal pesticides, fertilizers, and water, making it a sustainable choice.
Jute serves as the foundation for yarn, textiles, and rope, offering varied textures ranging from coarse to smooth based on the processing techniques applied. Commonly employed in burlap, hessian, and thick ropes, Jute also lends itself to the creation of elegant textiles such as baskets, carpets, and rugs. The refined fabric derived from Jute is extensively utilized in the production of bags, home decor items like cushions and drapes, and other exquisite, high-end products.
Wood stands as an essential material that finds application in nearly every industry, having been utilized to craft an array of products ranging from chairs to ships. However, the prominence of wood has somewhat receded in recent decades with the emergence of cheaper and lighter materials like hard plastic and aluminum.
As a natural plant-based material, untreated wood possesses complete biodegradability. Trees grown for commercial purposes serve as a renewable resource and contribute to the reduction of atmospheric carbon. While various crops offer greater sustainability than timber, when comparing the environmental impact of plastic manufacturing, wood emerges as a far superior choice.
Wood finds extensive use across diverse industries and scales. Opting for wooden alternatives to synthetic, non-biodegradable materials unveils a world of remarkable items, including wooden utensils, cutlery, crockery, soap holders (ideal for zero-waste soap and shampoo bars), and even disposable diapers made from wood. The versatility of wood ensures its presence in unexpected products, showcasing its eco-friendly appeal.
8. Areca Palm Leaf
The fallen leaves of Areca Palm, naturally occurring in Areca Nut plantations, are typically collected and burned. However, an alternative approach involves soaking and shaping these leaves into plates, bowls, and cups, which offer a completely natural and biodegradable option.
These eco-friendly products are crafted from naturally fallen leaves, eliminating the need for tree cutting. As a result, they contribute to the preservation of forests and do not require dedicated cultivation efforts, as they are derived as a by-product of other agricultural activities. Furthermore, these Areca Palm leaf products are entirely biodegradable and can be composted at home.
Areca Palm leaf products serve as sustainable alternatives to disposable plastic plates, bowls, and cups. They are widely utilized in cafes, restaurants, private events, and parties, offering an eco-conscious choice for individuals. In addition to tableware, various other items made from palm leaves, such as home decor and storage containers, are also available, showcasing the versatility and eco-friendliness of this natural material.
In summary, the market offers a vast array of excellent products crafted from fully biodegradable materials that prioritize environmental friendliness and sustainability. By presenting the top five biodegradable materials, we aim to assist you in discovering the finest eco-friendly alternatives when you embark on your next purchase. With these options at your disposal, you can make informed choices that align with your commitment to a greener future.