Are substitute-plastics a real possibility?

One keeps hearing about various efforts wrt bioplastics - but do they truly biodegrade with no/little adverse effects on the soil? How does one even determine this for any new material being created?

Would love to hear from those with experience with this.

Yes, at a personal level, cloth bags, refilling are options. But given the current supply chains and industry, it is unlikely we will make that huge a switch at scale in a hurry, and the quest for substitutes will continue for a bit.

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The environmental impacts of plastics have become an important political and academic topic. One of the main applications of plastics is packaging, a product with a very short service life, leading to a wide range of environmental problems. In this Perspective, we look at the potential environmental consequences (in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and land and water footprints) of substitution of petrochemical plastics used for packaging in Europe with bioplastics. The research is based on a review of life cycle impact assessment studies and additional calculations to assess the footprints of this substitution. The results demonstrate that currently it does not seem feasible to replace all the petrochemical plastic packaging with bioplastic because this will inevitably result in a considerable increase of land and water use. Unless we find ways to decrease plastic demand, most of the efforts to stop plastic pollution are likely to prove temporary and inadequate.

Bioplastics are not usually compostable in home composters. They require industrial composting infrastructure. This becomes a huge challenge in a country like India.

Substituting plastics with any other type of material will not be helpful if the substitute continues to be ‘single use/disposable’. We have to push the industry towards refill systems and promote locally produced products to citizens that will minimise the need for excessive packaging/transport.