Bioplastics are often promoted as an environmentally and climate-friendly alternative to conventional petroleum-based plastics. However, a recent study suggests that shifting to plant-based plastics could have less positive effects than expected. Specifically, an increased consumption of bioplastics in the following years is likely to generate increased greenhouse gas emissions from cropland expansion on a global scale.
This is just another example of how many things that seem like an obvious good thing for sustainability may not be so clear cut.
I remember one local sustainability activist promoting bioplastics like they were the next big thing in saving the planet. Like with biofuel, it is not “green” to chop down old-growth tropical forest to grow biofuel crops. Once tropical forests are gone, they are gone. They can’t simply be replanted.
Other things pointed out in the article include:
- Deforestation in order to make room for “green” agriculture is not just speculation — it is widespread already.
- Bioplastics are often not anymore biodegradable than petroleum based plastic and thus would not reduce ocean waste.