Plastic packaging hasn’t strayed far from the public eye since 2017. But as a company that utilises plastic in both manufacturing processes and the products we sell, the eradication of plastic waste has been a key issue for us for many years.
We led the way in the use of rPET materials, which contain a minimum of 50 per cent post-consumer waste; and for many years we’ve recycled close to 100 per cent of all waste we produce.
And now we have become one of the first packaging companies in the UK to manufacture and sell products made from BreakdownPET – a biodegradable and fully recyclable plastic material that is designed to quickly, naturally and safely decompose in landfill.
Breakdown PET explained
When talking about biodegradable plastics, it’s important to understand the definition of the biodegradation process. By definition, plastics that fragment or degrade through chemical reactions, ultraviolet radiation and / or mechanical processes are not biodegradable. They are simply degradable and in most cases leave toxins; heavy metals like cadmium, nickel and cobalt; and residues of the polymer in the environment.
Plastics are hydrocarbons that come from crude oil and are 100 per cent biodegradable thanks to oleo-physeal bacteria. However, in the process of distillation its original organic nutrients are burned. Additionally, manufactured plastic products are designed to be durable. All of which explains why traditional plastics take thousands of years for the microbes in them to decompose.
The organic additives used in Breakdown PET accelerate the biodegradation of treated plastics in microbe-rich environments. The material uses organic, carbon based ingredients that enable polymers to biodegrade like organic matter. Products made from Breakdown PET have an unlimited shelf-life and are completely non-toxic.
Breakdown PET actually attracts microbes to the product, where they colonise on its surface, and secrete acids that break down the polymer chain. Once the polymer chain is opened the microbes utilise the carbon backbone as a source of food and energy, and biodegradation occurs at the atomic level.
The difference between Breakdown PET and traditional plastic is that Breakdown PET creates an opportunity for microbes to utilise plastic as food and energy, which accelerates biodegradation. The end result of biodegraded Breakdown PET is the same as that of any biodegraded organic matter – humus, CO2 and CH4 that can be captured to produce clean, cheap energy.www.breakdownplastic.com
Frequently Asked Questions
No, Breakdown PET uses an additive composed of organic compounds that attract microbes when placed into microbe rich environments. There are no enzymes or microbes within the additive.
Independent testing shows that biodegradation occurs on the entire polymer chain in Breakdown PET rather than just consuming the additive present in treated plastic. ASTM biodegradation testing shows a much greater percentage of biodegradation as compared to the percentage load rate of additive, which proves that the plastic itself, not just the additive, is biodegrading.
Breakdown PET products are not designed to be a solution for litter. They are designed to naturally decompose in landfill, biodegrading in an anaerobic landfill environment. Having said that, ASTM D5988 soil test have returned favourable results and more testing is being done to further substantiate claims that Breakdown PET products are better for the open air environment than normal plastic products. Plastic can take anywhere from hundreds to thousands of years to biodegrade, so even a small increase in biodegradation is favourable, especially Breakdown PET, which leads to a natural end result.
Breakdown PET products will have enhanced biodegradation in any biologically active, microbial environment where methanogenic bacteria are present. The ocean floor and swamps have high concentrations of methanogenic bacteria, so based on the science behind Breakdown PET there would be enhanced biodegradation in these environments. Testing biodegradation in water is extremely difficult as there are no existing standard test methods.
Yes. Breakdown PET can be used with many common barrier materials. When using a barrier, it is important to ensure that all layers contain the proper load rate of additive.
Breakdown PET products are ‘home’ compostable, meaning they are not compostable in a commercial compost facility. Home compost units use a process called ‘anaerobic digestion’, meaning free of oxygen. The bacteria found in an anaerobic environment are called ‘methanogens’ and these are only present in home compost conditions. Breakdown PET plastics were designed for this environment. In contrast, commercial compost facilities use heat, oxygen and water to break down compostable plastics, and are not ideal for Breakdown PET products.
Compostable plastics are popular because they are made of 100 per cent renewable materials, but there are many negative aspects to compostable plastics, like PLA. Compostable plastics do not break down in landfill. They must be deposited in commercial compost facilities (they will not biodegrade in home compost units like Breakdown PET products) of which there are very few. Breakdown PET products can be tossed in the recycling bin, or if trashed, will naturally decompose in the landfill within a few years, which is a much better solution.
The table below shows a comparison of Breakdown PET technology to other products that are currently available in the market.
Yes. However, it is recommended to implement quality control to ensure the approved amount of material is being loaded into the resin. Note: PLA users are unable to use PLA regrind and must send any waste back to the manufacturer for processing and credit towards future orders.
No, there is no taste, flavour, or smell imparted to Breakdown PET in the manufacturing process. Additionally, independent third party testing has shown no negative leaching results.
Biodegradable Plastic: When plastic (or any other material) degrades from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi and algae then biodegradation can occur. This can take place in either aerobic (with oxygen) or anaerobic (without oxygen) environments. Breakdown PET products fall under the anaerobic category and are recyclable where the material is accepted.
Compostable Plastic: Capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost or aerobic environment to the point that the plastic is not visually distinguishable and breaks down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass. Compostable plastics are made up of renewable material and must be discarded in a commercial compost facility. They are not recyclable.
PLA is the most common type of compostable plastic. Here are some facts about PLA:
- Breaks down using heat and it begins to decompose as soon as it is manufactured
- Requires cold storage in transport. This is to keep the material from sticking together, a common problem with PLA
- Costs up to 150 per cent more than petroleum based plastics
- Cannot be used in standard moulding machinery because PLA cannot withstand high heat
- The PLA production process is slower, making it hard for companies to justify this added machine time
Breakdown PET is not the same as Oxo-Degradable. Oxo-degradable products are “degradable” and may never fully disappear.
Oxo products are becoming more scrutinised and increasingly less accepted. They are also being banned all over the world because they have been proven to create harmful microplastics. Oxo degradable additive is lower in cost but often must be loaded at a rate up to 8 per cent. They are not recyclable.
Following are some of the reasons Oxo is being banned:
- Oxo products are often composed of heavy metals (some countries refer to them as light metals) which are very harmful for the environment. Depending on the additive they basically use cadmium or cobalt to help disintegrate the plastic
- The first part of the Oxo breakdown process is not biodegradation, instead it is considered to be Photodegredation or Oxidisation, is not biodegradation. Even after these parts oxidise, the remaining chemicals that cause this reaction are left in the environment – again, this is not biodegradation
- Oxo products lose tensile strength and performance on the shelf. They often begin degrading before the product life is through. Special calculations for each product must be done to produce a product that will not begin degrading too soon
- Many Oxo products have UV and heat inhibitors put in them to extend their shelf life. This also poses problems. For example, say the shelf life is designed for two years, and the product ends up in a landfill before the two year mark for its UV inhibitors then it will remain indefinitely
- Finally, Oxo products will not degrade anaerobically. Therefore, if they end up in a landfill they will not break down because there is no light, heat and oxygen to do so
Breakdown PET does not cause the same reaction in plastic as Oxo degradable. Oxo degradable additive adds metal salts to the plastic product that cause the plastic to fragment, polluting the ground and water. The additive in Breakdown PET is organic. It contains no metals or toxins, and it enhances microbial activity in an anaerobic landfill. In nature, microbes consume all matter, eventually. A natural biproduct of this consumption is CO2, humus and methane. These are the same by-products of Breakdown PET. Basically, what naturally happens over hundreds of years will now take a few years, without affecting the ground or water negatively. The additive in Breakdown PET has been tested via ASTM E1963, which is a soil toxicity test and the product showed no signs of plastic particulates in the soil.
Plastics have been designed for their physical properties, strength and durability. Most plastics contain carbon atoms linked into long chains. Although carbon is a great nutrient source for microorganisms, the long chains make it difficult to be metabolised. Biodegradation of these plastics are accelerated in Breakdown PET through the use of the additive technology.
Once exposed to the enzymes that act as catalysts found in landfills and other naturally created chemicals, the microorganisms will penetrate the polymer chains within Breakdown PET products. The microbes attract other microbes by releasing chemical signals, similar to ants finding a food source and leaving behind a trail for other ants to follow. Collectively, they feast on the polymer chains, breaking down the chemical bonds that hold the plastic together. The result is plastic being consumed by microbes and the microbes excreting the same waste as organic matter, which is CO2, CH4 and humus (biomass).
The reality is that, unless it has been incinerated, almost every piece of plastic ever created still exists. Why? because it was designed to last forever. One can expect that, left on its own, plastic may possibly biodegrade in hundreds up to thousands of years. Breakdown PET products will have enhanced biodegradation in microbe rich disposal environments and take far less time to biodegrade compared to untreated plastics. The actual rate depends on the product itself and the disposal environment conditions.
Breakdown PET products require an active microbial environment (such as a landfill) for biodegradation. Warehouses, offices, store shelves, etc. are not considered such environments. The microbes required to consume Breakdown PET are readily found in waste areas (compost environments, landfills, lakes, oceans, side of road, etc.).
No. Breakdown PET attracts methanogenic bacteria and microorganisms that are present in landfills. The active microbes in food and dairy products are not the ‘super’ colony of microbes you find in landfills, soil, composting sites or waste water sludge plants.
There are a number of factors, which contribute to the length of time required to fully biodegrade. These include the surface area of the plastic; its mass and thickness; the microbial activity in the landfill; the amount or lack of oxygen; and most importantly, moisture levels. Biodegradation occurs in all landfills at varying rates. Breakdown PET products have accelerated natural biodegradation in biologically active landfills and anaerobic digesters as validated by independent, certified laboratories using internationally recognised test methods. Additionally, independent third party testing has shown up to 24.7 per cent biodegradation within 160 days in optimised conditions. The actual rate of biodegradation will always vary dependent upon environmental conditions and the biological activity of microorganisms surrounding the plastic.
The ASTM D5511 Test Method is a test used to determine the rate of biodegradation of plastic products in an anaerobic environment.
Yes. Breakdown PET meets the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDA) requirements of Title 21 part 177 (polymers for use as components of single or repeated use food contact surfaces) of the United States Code of Regulations and are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
In addition, Keller and Heckman, a large FDA verification firm, has looked at the formulation and validated the additive used in Breakdown PET to meet all the FDA requirements and have provided a short letter to confirm the verification for up to a 4% loading of the additive.
No. EN13432 is a regulation designed to protect the integrity of industrial composting. Very rapid degradation of the products is required to be converted mainly to CO2. Even cut grass does not comply with this regulation. This is similar in scope to ASTM D6400 Standard.
Currently there are no recognised standard certification programs for recyclability. A number of independent laboratories have been provided with samples of the additive used in Breakdown PET. These samples were then subjected to various testing methods to determine if they are suitable for recycling or contaminate recycling streams. The tests indicated that the additive does not affect the recyclability of treated products.
The following tests have been performed on PET bottles treated with the same additive used in Breakdown PET to verify recyclability. These are standard tests used to determine the quality of PET plastic regrind. These tests are suggested as part of the American Post-consumer Recycling Critical Guidance document.
- Haze and Transmission via ASTM D 1003B
- Intrinsic Viscosity via ASTM D 4603
- Acetaldehyde via ASTM F 2013
- Fluorescence Visual Visual Black Specks and Gel.
No. The additive used in Breakdown PET is 100 per cent organic and is comprised of non-toxic raw materials, which are independently approved for direct contact with food. All of the organic compounds contained in Breakdown PET are considered safe for food contact and have no known adverse health effects. The compounds are also not found on the toxic and potentially harmful substance list of CA Prop 65 and are also REACH approved. The State of California legislation identifies certain toxic and potentially harmful substances and provides limitations for their use. No products used in additive are listed in Prop 65.
The additive also complies with other international requirements for absence of toxic and other potentially harmful substances, including FDA Title 21 part 177 (polymers for use as components of single or repeated use food contact surfaces). It is CFIA, EC 1935- 2004 and EU 10-2011 compliant for food contact. It is also fully compliant with EU REACH regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006, and verified through a certified third party lab that the additive does not contain any Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC). It is also compliant with RoHS Directive 2011/65/EC.
Biomass is essentially organic matter similar to soil or dirt. There are no toxic products within that biomass and what remains is basically microbial poop.
There are several types of bacteria found in all landfills. Methanogens are the most common and are the target bacteria for Breakdown PET active ingredient.
There are 50 species of methanogenic bacteria and these bacteria live in anoxic, or anaerobic, conditions which are the same conditions as landfills. The additive attracts these bacteria but also any other bacteria that survives in anaerobic conditions. All landfills have bacteria and will aid in the biodegradation of Breakdown PET. Landfill conditions will vary from country to country, and area to area, depending on the amount of rainfall, temperature etc. Just like organic material, Breakdown PET will have a higher rate of biodegradation in a wetter warmer climate.
Breakdown PET products reduce the long-term impact on landfill in several ways:
- They reduce the bulk of plastic waste, allowing for more effective utilisation of diminishing landfill space
- Landfill environments are anaerobic in nature and lead to CH4 (methane) off-gassing. CH4 can be reclaimed as a source for clean, inexpensive energy
- Using methane from landfills is the most inexpensive form of “green” energy available at this time. It is even cheaper than solar, hydro, wind and alternative fuels. Corporations and government entities can utilise methane in fulfilling sustainability goals.
The additive in Breakdown PET is a proprietary and patented blend of organic ingredients proven to enhance the rate of plastic biodegradation in an anaerobic environment.
Yes, Breakdown PET does emit methane and CO2, which is a natural process of any material biodegrading. Landfill biogas emissions are on the smaller end of the scale. Millions of tonnes of Breakdown PET would need to be deposited into landfills to create even a minimal effect on biogas production.
The gases produced within a landfill can be collected and used in various ways. The landfill gas can be utilised directly on site by a boiler or any type of combustion system, providing heat. Electricity can also be generated on site through the use of micro turbines, steam turbines, or fuel cells. The landfill gas can also be sold off-site and sent into natural gas pipelines or used to fuel vehicles, cooking stoves and facilities.
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