Green Matter: New study clears the air for bioplastics in landfills

09/17/2012

Although Ingeo, the biopolymer produced by NatureWorks LLC is perfectly compostable, the reality is that products made from this biopolymer also end up in landfills. The question that has been dogging NatureWorks for a number of years now is: what does its product do under landfill conditions? Concerns have surfaced on a regular basis that, due to methane production, biodegradable polymers ending life in landfills might actually be aggravating the problem of greenhouse gas emissions rather than contributing to a solution.

The discussion really heated up after a press release went out in May 2011 on the results of a study from North Carolina State University, which stated that biodegradable products were "likely doing more harm than good in landfills", because of the greenhouse gas released as they break down. The study examined whether biodegradability was a "desired attribute in solid waste" and explained that in a landfill, these materials degrade anaerobically to form methane and carbon dioxide. Because methane escapes from landfills, either directly to the atmosphere or by diffusion through soil, the best solution would be to collect the methane for use as an energy source. The press release, however, was entitled "Study: Biodegradable products may be bad for the environment" and was picked up and quoted by the media everywhere....
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