Scientists urge policies for biodegradable plastics

10:39 | 23/03/2020 Environment

(VEN) - Vietnamese scientists are conducting research on plastic biodegradability in order to provide state management authorities with a scientific basis to develop technologies for plastic waste treatment and design a system of standards and regulations for bioplastic products.

scientists urge policies for biodegradable plastics

According to Associate Professor, Dr. Dang Thi Cam Ha of the Institute of Biotechnology (under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology - VAST), Vietnam has not yet issued any standards or regulations on biodegradable plastic bags although there are many products labeled “biodegradable plastic bags” in the market. “In order to have a scientific basis for management agencies to draft related policies, in 2019 we announced a number of studies on plastic biodegradability by agents and assessment of biodegradability of polymer and composite polymer by modern chemical and physical chemistry methods,” Ha said. “The research has been granted three patents of the National Office of Intellectual Property.”

According to scientists, under the impact of microorganisms and the environment, biodegradable bags completely decompose into water and carbon dioxide (CO2), easily penetrating the soil and causing no harm to the environment. In developed countries, biodegradable plastic is commonly used to make disposable plastic products.

The Vietnamese scientists conducted research on samples of plastic bags advertised as biodegradable in the domestic and foreign markets. These included Dutch and German plastic bags granted biodegradability certificates and used to make compost; bags from research projects of the Institute of Chemistry; supermarket bags certified as environmentally friendly and manufactured with imported technology, and bags made from petroleum byproducts commonly used in Vietnam.

The team designed experiments on biological and physical agents to test the degradation rate of the samples. The agents included bacteria and actinomycetes separated from compost made by agricultural byproducts in natural humidity of tropical regions from 10-60 degree Celsius.

Associate Professor, Dr. Ha Quy Quynh, Head of the Department of Technology Application and Implementation under VAST, said producing biodegradable plastics faces difficulties due to the lack of incentive policies and mechanisms. Enterprises have launched products that meet consumer tastes, such as food bags, cups, bowls, spoons, gloves, and straws, but have not encouraged a large number of consumers to use them due to their high prices compared to products made from ordinary plastic. Enterprises cannot receive certificates for biodegradable products yet due to the lack of standards and regulations for biodegradable plastic products, resulting in unhealthy competition of non-biodegradable products, which does not protect consumers.

Vietnam therefore needs to draft policies, standards and regulations on bioplastic products soon, and develop the application of biodegradable plastic products or new materials to replace traditional plastics. Many scientists believe that there are already successful studies on biodegradable plastics in the country, which can be quickly commercialized if facilitated with favorable conditions. The state also needs to provide production units with supportive policies to make this new product more affordable for consumers.

Research conducted in Vietnam has created the basis and premise to produce biodegradable bags as well as designing technological processes for treating polymer material waste.

Thu Huong