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Friendly plastic

Not all plastic and styrofoam products are destructive to the environment. Modern science and 21st century manufacturing technology have made them bio-degradable and oxo-degradable in such a shorter time and, therefore, safer to our surroundings and to humans.

It is clear that some of those in our national leadership, as well as bigoted local government officials are misled and misinformed. They stubbornly maintain their negative attitude about environmental degradation caused by plastics.

Plastic and styrofoam manufacturers in Europe and the United States have made inroads into making these products degradable. That is, safe and kind to humans and the environment.

Last Thursday, I had an enlightening breakfast interview at Club Filipino with a personality who is very knowledgeable in plastic manufacturing.

He has observed in Europe, Asia, and the United States the use of additives in bio-degradable plastics which are plant-based, as well as in chemical based oxo-degradable plastics.

These two manufacturing processes are the answers to environmentalists and health advocates because what are produced are contact-foodgrade plastics. This means they are safe as shopping and carrying bags in supermarkets and department stores, as well as packing materials for raw foods especially in wet markets, my interviewee said.

That and more are the enormous amount of information that I was able to learn that, by the life of me, I had no knowledge about as an opinion writer who is mainly interested in conservation and environmental matters.

So what would these contact-foodgrade plastics do to man’s everyday life?

For one, they contain additives in their manufacture: tapioca or cassava as plant-based additive making plastics of that kind bio-degradable; and plastics with chemical-based additive as oxo-degradable.

A bio-degradable plastic dissolves into bits in landfills and its starch contents are eaten by microbes, thus, it degrades in shorter period of time.

So, bio-degradable plastics and oxo-degradable plastics which are both contact-foodgrade materials are now being manufactured and widely used in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

Incidentally, while some plastic manufacturers in the Philippines use tapioca as plant-based additive, the US companies use corn starch. The former is abundant in tropical countries, while the latter is plentiful in America.

Experts say these crops absorb carbon easily. And their starch-yield is high. When tapioca grows it consumes large amount of carbon dioxide.

With such a degradable additive, what gives?

Mainly, conservationists and environmental advocates are given a peace of mind, in a manner of speaking.

And what else did I get to know in that breakfast interview?

This one is infuriating, to say the least.

Woven bags (locally called bayong) that are commonly used in wet markets as carry-all bags can easily contaminate the raw foods – meat and fish alike – and even vegetables. In what manner?

The makers of woven bags, as a general rule, do not exercise utmost sanitary means like, disinfecting the materials (water lilies, for example) used to make the bayong.

You see, these materials could be contaminated with dangerous organisms and bacteria at the source. And the raw foods placed in woven bags get in contact with the infected raw materials of the bags, transferring the harmful organisms to the foods.

Another misnomer is the so-called eco-bag that is sold in many supermarkets and department stores. It is made of non-woven plastic and it is not recyclable. How deluding can a tradename get!

Even paper bags made of recycled materials are in the same league with woven bags in terms of acquiring harmful organisms at the source. One has only to look under the microscope once a recycled paper bag is examined for reasons of health and sanitation.

And many have the mistaken notion that paper disintegrates easily in landfills. Wrong. Here is proof:

In March, 2007, the City of San Francisco commissioned a research firm, Boustead Consulting & Associates, to make studies as to the replacement of traditional plastic bags with reusable bags made from paper.

“Current research shows that in modern landfills, paper does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does,” noted the research firm.

If some local government units continue to pass ordinance after ordinance banning the use of plastic bags in retail stores, supermarkets and department stores and wet markets, then they are not abreast of the international strides of 21st century plastic manufacturing technology.

  • Ligaya Cinco

    from Manila Bulletin web.