What is the purpose of having biodegradable bags?

Garbage always ends up in a landfill, a place that is not suitable for biodegradability. What is the point of producing degradable packaging? Other options for environmental care are suggested here.

Waste destinations
It is known that there are only two destinations for bags, whether they are biodegradable, degradable, pseudo-degradable or non-degradable, one correct and the other incorrect.

The correct destination is for them to receive the same treatment as other household waste, i.e. the well-known household trash can. We can reuse them several times for different purposes, but eventually they should end up in the waste bin. In Argentina, we have the privilege of having household waste removed almost every day and taken to a landfill for final disposal.

The wrong destination is public roads: parks, squares or waterways. This sad fate is not exclusive to bags, but is shared with countless other wastes, packaging or not, thanks to the apathy of some of our fellow humans.

Landfill (and not so much)

What does it mean that a bag, any container or any object is biodegradable?
If it goes to a landfill (correct destination) it will not decompose. Nothing breaks down when placed in the ground in complete isolation, in the dark, in an anaerobic environment, under other layers of trash and finally hermetically sealed, except for gas or liquid recovery outlets, in those rare cases where they exist. .

Digging through landfills to learn about the customs of our ancestors, meat and carrots were found in perfect condition after being there for decades. Is there anything more biodegradable than these products? Well, they didn’t degrade! Paper, which we like to say is degradable, does not break down in that environment either. In fact, the diaries found next to the above-mentioned remains were perfectly legible and represented a means par excellence of marking the exact date of the adjacent food remains. In this environment, a degradable product behaves the same as a non-degradable product.

There will be no shortage of people who will tell me that landfills only exist in a few cities in Argentina and that there are still many open dumps. Who is responsible for allowing landfills to exist in the third millennium – already very far from the Middle Ages – an open dump? At these landfills, all kinds of products flow into the sewers: from heavy metals, to poisons from empty containers and all kinds of microorganisms, including those that cause diseases. They also allow the release of gases and odors that are unpleasant at best, and can be harmful to health at worst. Finally, they enable the spread of solid waste (especially lighter ones).

However, no significant biodegradation was recorded in those places either, except for a very small part that manages to remain on the surface for enough time in contact with the earth, the sun and in conditions of adequate humidity so that specific microorganisms can do their work. degradation.

Public place

Waste found on public surfaces can be of industrial or natural origin. The latter are the most degradable and are especially suitable for decomposition in the area where they were created, because the appropriate microorganisms exist and reproduce there.

For example, if I cut some branches with leaves from a rose in my garden and leave them there, they will rot faster than if I leave them on the pavement. Not to mention if I take them to another geographical location, for example in Patagonia or Chaco, where specific microorganisms probably don’t exist.

Despite all these advantages of natural products in terms of biodegradability, no one expects them to naturally biodegrade when they end up on the pavement or in the park, as it would take weeks or even months. If we don’t give these products time to decompose themselves, what is the point of producing industrial products that decompose?

The production of a biodegradable product is more expensive than the production of those that do not have this property. Stating that they must be biodegradable (when it is not necessary) limits competition, thereby increasing prices. In both cases, it is the population that ends up paying for an increase in something that leads to nothing.

An alternative that works

After learning how they work in Canada, the United States, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Singapore, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, to name just a few from various continents, we will understand that in these societies they did not pay much attention to whether shopping bags are biodegradable or not . Yes, they took care of educating citizens, but also of household waste in general. Educated people do not leave garbage on the streets. Governments concerned about their citizens have taken care and are taking care to bring education to levels that are consistent with the characteristics of today’s complex societies.

They also exterminated open landfills, coordinated the existence of “sanitary” landfills in the true sense of the word, enabled differentiated collection of waste from households, mechanical or thermal recycling of relevant fractions on a technical-economic scale, and composting. organic fractions. In all cases with the use of released energy.

In all cases, they made this change by improving education, sanitation, and energy supplies for the benefit of the people they ruled. I would like to paraphrase José Ortega y Gasset with his advice from exactly 70 years ago: “Argentinians, get down to business!”


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