Okay, here’s what you need to know about PBAT, an active ingredient in compostable packaging.
Firstly, PBAT (polybutylene adipate terephthalate) is a fully biodegradable polymer. When buried in real soil environments, it breaks down completely and leaves no toxic residues behind.
Think of PBAT as a kind of futuristic biomaterial.
Why was it created?
Well, that’s simple. It was developed to solve environmental pollution caused by recycling conventional plastics.
Basically, TONS of wasted plastics are eventually destined to be burnt or buried in land during the recycling process.
In fact, most of the plastic that exists today has been made in the last decade.
Instead of recycling, PBAT-based compostable bioplastics will decompose due to the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as fungi, algae and bacteria.
Whether home or commercially composted, the bioplastics will break down without creating methane or emitting any toxins harmful to our environment.
Sounds great right? It is.
However, there’s one caveat with PBAT – it still isn’t fully renewable as it’s partly derived from petrochemicals (or what we commonly refer to as oil).
While it’s currently the best solution we have to combat plastic waste, significant research is going into a more plant-based composition for PBAT that will enhance its renewability.
We’re closely following innovations in this space.
Even so, it’s important to note that conventional plastics still contribute far more to fossil fuel production than the use of biodegradable polymers like PBAT, in addition to the plastic waste they leave behind.
So, what’s the verdict?
Compostable packaging made from corn starch, PLA (renewable bio-based plant material) and PBAT is not yet a perfect solution.
But we’re getting closer to finding one. And in the meantime, this is the best weapon we have to combat the dangerously polluting effects of plastic.
Jian, J, Xianbin, Z, Xianbo, H (2020). ‘An overview on the synthesis, properties and applications of poly(butylene-adipate-coterephthalate’. Advanced Industrial and Engineer Polymer Research, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 19-26.
Geyer, R, Jambeck, J, R, Law, K, L, ‘Production, use, and the fate of all plastics ever made’, Science Advances, vol. 3, no. 7. pp. 1-5.
Weng, Y, Jin, Yu, J, Meng, Q, Wang, L, Zhang, M. ‘Biodegradation behaviour of poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT), poly(lactic acid) (PLA), and their blend under soil conditions’, Polymer Testing, vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 918-926.