In recent times, biodegradable plastics have appeared as solutions to the global plastics crisis without demanding any change in consumer habits. Created from biologically based materials, bioplastics claim to be able to decompose completely. It is no wonder then that consumers are quick to jump on the bioplastics trend.
But what consumers often miss in the fine print, however, is that most "biodegradable" plastics can only biodegrade in an appropriate composting facility, which is much less accessible than that for single-use plastics. This means that a biodegradable cup, when not disposed properly, has the same negative impact on the environment as a regular plastic cup, with some ease on the consumer guilt. Biodegradable plastic is also not recyclable. In fact, mixing them with other recyclable plastics may harm the overall quality of the recycled plastic.
We believe that bioplastic needs more time to finetune its properties before it can save the planet. We must acknowledge that our current value system which places convenience above our health and the health of the planet is not sustainable, and that there is no quick and clean solution to work around this necessary mindset change. Regardless of what the verdict on bioplastics is, it is important for consumers to think critically about the promising solutions that green technologies seem to offer before subscribing whole-heartedly to the vision of sustainability promised by their marketing.
So what are the underlying biases and preconceived notions that we have about the products labelled "bio" or "green"? Are there other “bio”s that we need to be wary of?
Join us at the 112th Green Drinks Monthly Sustainability Forum for a discussion on solutions to the plastic crisis and the realistic impact of clean technologies such as bioplastics.
About the Speakers
Dr K Jim Jem, China General Manager, Total Corbion
Subject: Dr Jem's talk will cover bioplastics from a holistic perspective, with a focus on: types of bioplastics, pro's and con's of PLA, how is PLA 'industrially' recycled or composted, innovations in the bioplastics world, other plant-based packaging alternatives, etc.
Background: Dr. Jem received his Ph.D. and 2 Masters degrees in biochemical engineering, and numerous awards in the USA, and worked 15 years in engineering, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies such as Ratheon, Serono, Diversa, with excellent track record with multiple awards. In 2000, he moved back to China to work for biotech and bioplastic companies such as Cargill and NatureWorks PLA. He has served as the China General Manager for Total Corbion PLA JV and previously for Corbion Purac since 2007, and serves as a Visiting Professor for several local Universities.
Daniel Gao, Account Manager, DSM
Subject: Daniel's talk will cover the myths of bioplastics and degradation, how bioplastics can allevieate the problem of plastic pollution, and how they can be best used to not cause harm to the environment.
Background: Daniel Gao majored in Biomass Science and Technology at South China University of Technology, where his research focused on applications of bio-based materials. He has had three papers published internationally and issued two patents (one pending). He currently works as an Account Manager in the DSM engineering plastic department, and is in charge of business maintenance and development in South China and Zhejiang province. As a member of DSM Sustainability Ambassadors, he joined One Young World Summit in Bogota in 2017, focusing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, participates in DSM sustainability activities and is responsible for promoting sustainable product portfolio solutions.
- Talks will be in English.
- Dr Jem will also be bringing some samples to show people the differences between different types of bioplastics.
- naked Hub is a partner in Green Initiatives' WE Project. Remember to bring your old, used/useless electronics for recycling if you have some lying around.