QC firm offers additive to make plastic biodegradable

Posted at 7:58 pm February 01, 2011
By Anna Valmero


QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA—A local company claims its additive would help degrade plastic in about 182 days instead of centuries.

The product is called BioMate, an additive mixed with plastic polymers that are turned into grocery bags or wrappers, said Dennis Bernardo, market specialist of First in Colours.

Biodegradable plastics would reduce the occurrence of non-biodegradable plastic in landfills or even in drainage that cause floods during rainy season, he added.

In simple terms, the additive makes the plastic easier to decompose through the processes of oxidation and biodegradation hence, the term “oxo-biodegradable”.

Oxo-biodegradable plastic is actually one of two kinds of degradable plastic available in the market, the other one being starch-based plastics that are degraded through the process of hydrolysis such as the one sold recently by a local business.  If you seem familiar to the term, you may have seen it printed on green plastic grocery bags of SM Hypermarket, he noted.

Other establishments that use the product on their plastic bags include Jollibee Food Corp., Toy Kingdom, Mercury Drug, other restaurants and malls.

“The oxo-biodegradation process is simple: the additive acts as a catalyst to break down plastic into degradable fragments through the process of oxidation. The fragments of plastic is then decomposed by microorganisms in the soil and are assimilated in the environment in the form of carbon dioxide and water, similar to other organic matter,” explained Bernardo.

For its oxo-biodegradation capability, Bernardo said that Biomate was issued Environmental Technology Verification ETV 08-013 by the Industrial Technology Development Institute, an arm of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

BioMate does not contain heavy metals and are applicable for food contact applications such as bags, Bernardo added.
The product also passed the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive for electrical and electronic equipment.

Aside from food corporations and manufacturers of polyethylene and polypropylene plastic bottles often used for drinks, First in Colours is in talks with local government units starting with Muntinlupa City that recently banned the use of plastic bags and styrofoam in the area.

Oxo-biodegradable plastics are better than paper or cloth bags for several reasons, noted Bernardo.

First, the process of making paper bags causes 70 percent more atmospheric pollution than plastic bags and paper bags use about 300 percent more energy to produce and huge amounts of water.

A recent study by World Watch Institute found that 270,000 trees are dumped in landfills everyday and about ten percent of that is attributed to used toilet paper alone.

Meanwhile, reusable cotton bags serve as breeding ground for bacteria and mold through prolonged use and exposure to moisture. Since it is more expensive than plastic bags to transport, the reusable bags also become a cost to consumers, added Bernardo.

“We realize that total banning of plastic may take a while in the country considering that it is still an economical choice for packaging and other uses. What the additive intends to do is to make plastic degradable in a hundred days and an option for us users to contribute to the environment by not filling our landfills with non-biodegradable plastic,” he said.