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Guest Writer Saverio Colasanto asks: “Are Biodegradable Bags Really Good for the Planet?”

June 9, 2010

Pebble in the Pond is very happy to welcome guest blogger 8-year-old Saverio Colasanto. Enjoy his piece: “Are Biodegradable Bags Really Good for the Planet?”

Saverio Colasanto, pictured here with his so-called biodegradable bag

Introduction:

Will a biodegradable bag really break down? I wanted to find out if biodegradable bags would break down because I want every plastic bag to be gone. Fish and alligators, sharks and other animals swallow them and die. If we eat animals who ate plastic, we are eating the plastic and we can get sick and die.

The Investigation
Plastic bags were invented in 1965 by Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin. In 1982, Safeway and one other grocery store replaced paper bags with plastic bags. The paper bag was invented in 1912 by Walter Deubner. But paper isn’t as strong, so you needed more, and it was a waste of trees. Plastic is also cheaper.
Because plastic bags don’t go away we’re filling the planet up with them. There are so many plastic bags in the world and even if we abandon using them, the ones that are already here will still be here forever. Humans have just made a mess. A newspaper article on the web said that “we produce 500 billion plastic bags a year worldwide and they take up to 1,000 years to decompose.” (1)
To help solve the problem, biodegradable bags were introduced as an alternative. Plastic will always be plastic, but biodegradable bags are supposed to turn into dirt. That is good because it makes new soil, so I wanted to find out if biodegradable bags really break down.

Me and my brother Nic put a biodegradable bag in a leaf pile in June 2009. Nic and I checked the bag we had buried in November, but nothing had happened.

So I decided to bury a bag of 3 earth worms in a bucket, then insulate the bucket in a protected place next to the house for the winter. I heard a mother earth worm lays about 10 eggs every 2 or 3 weeks. Nic helped me. We also put some dirt in the first bag, then put it back in the leaf pile. Earth worms should speed up the process. If there is some soil the earth worms should survive. ( 2)

On November 30, 2009, the bags website said it can up to two years for their bags to break down. On April 27, 2010, the bags website said it can take 9 months to 5 years. (3)
We pulled both bags up on April 12, 2010. Nothing had happened. The first bag was buried about 11 months. The 2 bag was buried 4½ months.

One problem is we only tested one kind of bag. So I put dirt in a compostable bag on April 14, 2010 and put it in a bucket in the sun. After only 14 days it had 3 holes in it and it was weak. This bags website says it will degrade in 10 to 45 days and fully biodegrade in less than 6 months. (4)

Conclusion
From what I discovered in my experiment, biodegradable bags are not so good for the environment because they don’t really break down, even when their filled with dirt and worms. Some might break down, or maybe these would in two more years. But maybe they are no different from a regular plastic bag. However, oxo-biodegradable or “compostable” bags do break down quickly so they are better for the environment.(5)
________

Endnotes
1. Retrieved from http://news.therecord.com/article/354044 , April 13, 2010
2. ChemRisk, A Service of McLaren/Hart Inc.: Ecological Assessment of ECM Plastic http://www.ecmbiofilms.com, page 12, retrieved from on November 30, 2009
3. Retrieved from http://www.ecmbiofilms.com on November 30, 2009
4. Retrieved from http://www.ecmbiofilms.com on April 27, 2010
5. Retrieved from http://www.degradableplastics.com on April 27, 2010

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2010 7:00 pm

    Love the perspective. Nice job guys!

  2. Lynne Knight permalink
    June 12, 2010 6:17 pm

    Great job, Sav!

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