What makes a bag “degradable”?

“Degradable Plastic: a plastic designed to undergo a significant change in its chemical structure under specific environmental conditions resulting in a loss of some properties that may vary as measured by standard test methods appropriate to the plastic and the application in a period of time that determines its classification.” [ASTM D883-99] – American Society for Testing and Materials. www.astm.org

Degradable bags are regular plastic bags that contain a unique agent which helps break down the plastic and reduces the strength of the bag when exposed to heat or light. As the bag breaks into smaller pieces it becomes a nutrient for microbes and then biomass. There are two main technologies in the market today, which utilize two distinctive methods for breaking down the plastic molecules. These methods are Photo degradation (UV) and Oxidation (Oxo). The additive will start breaking down the plastic in anywhere from 6 to 24 months or longer.

If we consider that it takes a normal plastic bag over a thousand years to degrade in a landfill, this additive is a big help to reduce the amount of plastic and the time it takes to get back into nature’s cycle. Furthermore, degradable bags can also be recycled.

Degradable bags are made with polymers (fossil fuel sub products) and are NOT “biodegradable” until a later stage, when they are broken into smaller particles and can serve as nutrients for micro organisms. More information about biodegradable bags is coming soon.