Page 21 - SENV 2021_30Apr
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So useful to man yet so problematic, BIODEGRADABLE PLASTIC – little impact on reducing carbon footprint or
greenhouse gas emissions.”
Biodegradable plastic may also interfere with the recycling process when mixed with conventional plastics.
Still, there are those who see the merits of switching to biodegradable alternatives, as it is well-nigh impossible to do away with single-use plastics for food packaging or for medical purposes.
Developing biodegradable plastic from food waste may be a more palatable option as it puts to good use a waste product and reduce disposal at landfills. A team led by Professor William Chen, director of the Food Science and Technology Programme at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), has invented
plastic is the scourge of our modern
age. While plastic has opened the way for a plethora of new inventions and devices, plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues facing planet earth.
Mass production of plastics began just six decades ago and within that period, 8.3 billion tonnes of plastics have been produced, most of it as disposable products that end up as trash. It is estimated a mere 9 percent is recycled and another 12 percent incinerated. The bulk of it ends up in landfills or in the natural environment. As plastics takes years to degrade – as much as 450 years for the ubiquitous plastic PET bottle – the problem can only get worse with each passing day.
Recycling rate took a hit after China, the prime destination for recyclable waste, banned the import of waste on 1 January 2018, a significant percentage of which was plastic waste. Attempts by recyclers to re- route their waste elsewhere to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, countries where regulations are lax, have run into difficulties. Following public outcry, government regulations have been tightened up and hundreds of containers of untreated waste sent back to the countries of origin, including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.
As Asia is home to all top five marine plastic trash offenders - China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka – the need for a solution has gained added urgency. Ocean Conservancy estimates the plastic litter problem is inflicting US$1.3 billion in damage annually to the region’s fishing, shipping and tourism industries.
The use of biodegradable plastic made from corn, coconut, potato or wood to replace single- use plastic does not always provide a solution. If buried in land lls, the biodegradable plastic bag degrades faster and has less adverse impact on the environment. But for Singapore where all waste ends up in the incinerator, it does not make any difference.
“Some biodegradable plastics may require more resources to produce and that would inevitably incur a higher carbon footprint,” Mr Liow Chean Siang, head of environmental certifications at the Singapore Environment Council, told Channel News Asia. “Consumers may have less guilt in using such bags but ultimately this could have

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