The merits of biodegradable plastics have been uncertain, but a new study that appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology says that though these types of plastics aren't littering the ocean or clogging landfills, they are contributing to climate change in the last phase of their life cycle.
When the biodegradable utensils and other plastics get to the landfill, microbes break them down and produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. While many other items in landfills create methane as well, these plastics are adding to the load. Some landfills have systems that capture the methane and use it for energy, but most landfills don't.
So while these plastics are free of petroleum and biodegrade instead of existing forever, their life-cycle impact isn't negligible. Is it still better than the regular plastic disposables? Yes, but this just further illustrates that it's best to skip disposable utensils and cups and go for the reusable stuff.
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