People carry placards on earth’s day to advocate for saving the planet by using only biodegradable materials.
Reports like the ozone layer depletion, the melting of the ice in the polar regions, and water pollution all point to the fact that the planet needs to be saved. Most world leaders’ summits center on this.
Plastics and other non-biodegradable materials are the culprits when it comes to non-biodegradable materials. Their manufacturing processes are not environmental-friendly. Their usage and disposal make them dangerous to living things.
But the question is, what are the advantages and disadvantages of biodegradable materials? Fortunately, we provide the answers in this article.
Biodegradable materials like leaves, woods, hides, and skins can easily decompose naturally. Microorganisms act on them to generate water, carbon (IV) oxide, and other gases. The wastes generated from them are a great source of food for plants. They keep the ecosystem balanced cyclically.
We use non-biodegradable materials every day. The materials range from clothes to buttons, tires, metals, wristwatches, and glasses on computers. In many homes, the percentage of non-biodegradable materials remains high.
When we get tired of these materials, we dump them in our waste bins, dumpsites, and water bodies through intentional or unintentional means. They don’t decompose easily. So, they remain in nature for a long time, causing a high rate of pollution if not recycled.
The Major Advantages of Biodegradable Materials
1. They are eco-friendly
Organic processes can cause them to decompose easily. Water, air, and other natural agents can easily act on them to aid decomposition. The gases released from such operations are not usually harmful to biodiversity.
The recycling method reduces the large quantity of garbage in dunghills. There is a great reduction of the effect of environmental pollution.
Above all, the recycling process usually produces new eco-friendly materials. Examples are manures for plants and biogas for cooking.
2. Their production process conserves energy
Although energy is conserved during production, many companies are yet to adjust their production processes to accommodate biodegradable materials. This reluctance is a result of a lack of machines.
However, more machinery would be produced as technological innovations in this area increase. The goal of energy conservation will then be achieved.
As awareness increases, companies are beginning to embrace the production of biodegradable materials. They conserve about 65% of energy during the production processes.
These processes are also not harmful to the environment and human life. More so, the materials used are readily available.
3. Zero percent waste generation
The recycling process of biodegradable materials is so efficient that there can be 0% waste generation. New materials are being generated biologically at every phase or stage of decomposition, giving credence to the usefulness of biodegradable materials.
In contrast, non-biodegradable materials produce toxins as waste materials during their production or recycling processes. These toxins are not just dangerous to mankind, but also to the environment. The effect is seen in the depletion of the ozone layer.
4. Increase in CO2 combustion
Plants use up CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere for their food production to release oxygen needed for our respiration. Biodegradable materials can also reduce the quantity of CO2 because their production processes don’t generate CO2. This leads to the reduction in the amount of greenhouse gas emitted on earth, thereby preserving the ozone layer.
5. Toxins are not released into the environment
In contrast to non-biodegradable materials that release toxins into the environment during either their production or recycling processes, biodegradable materials don’t release toxins into the atmosphere during their production or recycling processes.
The gases and waste materials from them are not dangerous to animal, aquatic or human lives as they always find leverage in nature for their reusability.
6. Decomposition occurs naturally
Because these materials can be acted upon by microorganisms and other elements of nature, decomposition occurs naturally. Water, air, wind, animals, and microbes join hands to make this happen. It occurs naturally in nature with almost no interference.
Once the condition of the environment favors their decomposition, they degrade at a fast rate when compared with non-biodegradable materials. This makes them environmentally friendly.
7. Artificial decomposition can also take place
This means that those who use biodegradable materials in a large quantity for production purposes can speed up the rate of decomposition under artificial conditions. The decomposition occurs without any harm to the environment.
The process is easier, provided that the needed pieces of equipment like compost chamber are available. The compost is used as fertilizers for plants.
8. Increase in food production
With the rate at which the population of the world is growing and food shortage is looming, biodegradable wastes – when recycled – are a great source of fertilizer. These fertilizers are devoid of dangerous chemicals found in most fertilizers available on the market.
This will lead to a higher crop yield that does not contain harmful chemicals. Food production will also increase and mankind will be saved from hunger and famine.
9. They are economically viable
As the focus of the world is shifting towards the protection of the earth, the production of biodegradable materials is becoming the order of the day. Great export exchange value lies in the production of biodegradable materials, which will in turn increase a nation’s GDP.
The Major Disadvantages of Biodegradable Materials
Below are some of the few disadvantages of biodegradable materials that are worth knowing.
1. Chemical contamination
The fear of pesticides and other chemicals used in plant production remains high for all the biodegradable materials produced. Corn starch, for instance, can become contaminated with the pesticides used to prevent pests and parasites from attacking the grains during storage.
These chemicals are harmful to the human system if ingested. The engineering process of ascertaining the absence of harmful chemicals is still not top-notch.
2. Low technological innovation
The lack of technological innovation in the area of production of biodegradable materials is one of the banes. The machines needed for large productions are not available or accessible to all. The few ones used are handmade at home.
In the face of our current realities, there is a need for large production. But the technicalities of machine production make it difficult. The lack of technical know-how on the part of the operators is also a bane.
3. Current high cost of production
Due to the technicalities involved in the production of machines used for the mass production of biodegradable materials, equipment is scarce. And the few ones available are costly.
This high cost discourages many from venturing into their productions. It also results in a hike in price. Hence, discouraging people from buying biodegradable materials, since cheap alternatives are available.
4. Poor channel of waste management
Because of the pseudo-safety feeling, people handle biodegradable wastes poorly. This leads to the wastes getting to the same landfill that other wastes get to. Dangerous gases like methane can also be emitted, which makes them just as dangerous as non-biodegradable materials. Poor waste management makes them dangerous to the environment too.
5. They serve as breeding grounds for disease vectors
A trip to waste sites where biodegradable material wastes are dumped indiscriminately will show you a large number of mosquitoes, flies, and other disease vectors that have chosen them as breeding grounds. Biodegradable waste materials are dangerous to humans when they are breeding grounds for disease-causing organisms.
6. Dangerous to ocean life
The ocean is not hot enough to activate decomposition in some of the biodegradable materials. Examples are biodegradable plastic. Once the wastes find their way into the ocean, they continue to float about or get broken into tiny bits, thereby causing a great problem for aquatic lives. This danger is real and calls for proper attention.
7. May lead to food scarcity
It is no longer news that there is a food shortage globally. Food substances like corn and soybeans are chiefly used in the production of biodegradable materials. The production of these materials for electrical appliances, home devices, and others will lead to food shortages.
This calls for concern as to whether we are ripe for such productions in the face of hunger looming on some and ravaging the rest.
8. Large quantity of greenhouse gas emission
Wastes from biodegradable materials found in landfills were discovered to actively emit greenhouse gases like methane rapidly. This rapid emission is dangerous to the environment because of the lack of ability to collect and store them properly.
However, a greater danger looms with a large number of dangerous gas emissions when the world goes into full-scale production of biodegradable materials.
The advocacy for the world to reduce the use of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials led everyone to start thinking about renewable energy. Biodegradable materials have proven to be able to lead the world on course to take the right step at the right time. They are readily available.
Biodegradable materials can be engineered to last longer and serve all the purposes that non-biodegradable materials serve.
More so, they are the means of saving the earth from greenhouse gas emission effects if handled properly. However, the lack of equipment and technical know-how for production, supply channel for finished products, and proper disposal of wastes generated are the root causes of their disadvantages as discussed.