Benefits of TDPA® Technology
The major use of single use plastics is as packaging. Many such products, particularly film products, are contaminated by the food or other products that they contain and are currently impractical to recycle or they are intended as containers for other waste materials. As a result, most of this is destined for landfills, unfortunately as litter and increasingly to compost facilities.
While disposal is at the bottom of the waste hierarchy, the least desirable way of dealing with once used resources, it remains the most commonly practiced way in virtually every country in the world, including the most developed ones. In the USA, for example, municipal solid waste (MSW) increased from 152 million tons/year in 1980 to 246 million tons/year in 2005 and although the recycling rate tripled, and compost recovery and incineration with energy recovery became major destinations for MSW, the amount of landfilled material remained almost constant at over 130 million tons of new waste added every year. Only 5.6% of plastics in MSW were recovered by recycling in the US and approximately 12.5 million tons of plastic packaging was directed to landfills. Products using EPI technology will degrade in managed landfills thereby aiding their compression and maximizing landfill capacity utilization.
In less developed countries, despite the efforts of their governments to eliminate littering, it continues to be a huge problem. Improperly littered conventional plastic products are a visual blight, can harm wildlife and are a breeding ground for disease carrying insects. The same products utilizing TDPA® technology will safely degrade and biodegrade and alleviate these problems. EPI’s technology is not a solution to the problem but it certainly can help to manage it by avoiding litter accumulation.
Standards exist for plastics to be designated as compostable. EPI’s TDPA® incorporated products do not meet these standards, primarily because they do not biodegrade quickly enough in a compost environment. Nonetheless, operators of a number of managed compost facilities accept bags using this technology as an affordable alternative to generally more expensive technologies that meet the standard requirements. Properly designed bags utilizing TDPA® technology disintegrate to meet compost quality requirements and, while they do not biodegrade quickly enough to meet compostable plastics standards, this can be an advantage as they sequester carbon in the soil and contribute to soil structure and fertility.
There are other specialty uses for plastics where it is necessary or would be useful if the plastic degraded and biodegraded after serving its primary use.
Agricultural plastics such as mulch films reduce the need for pesticides, minimize irrigation needs and help maximize crop yields. When such plastics incorporate TDPA® technology they degrade into small pieces that can be ploughed into the soil and add structure and safely biodegrade in the same way as other organic soil components. The cost of the EPI system is more than offset by the benefits it brings, including the avoidance of the retrieval and disposal of conventional films.
EPI’s TDPA® Technology is an Environmental Win-Win
Because it is an additive technology that is applied to conventional plastic resins, it complements rather than compromises management strategies that are higher in the waste hierarchy:
- reduce – the strength of products containing TDPA® is the same as the unmodified plastics and opportunities for reduction through gauge reduction is unchanged.
- reuse – degradation of products containing TDPA® starts after disposal and products using the technology can be reused many times.
- recycling - TDPA® incorporated products are fully compatible with the existing recycle stream
- recovery - products containing TDPA® have the same amount of recoverable energy value on incineration as the unmodified products
Very importantly, TDPA® incorporated products process virtually identically to the unmodified products and have the same physical properties. This, coupled with their affordability, differentiates them from other types of biodegradable plastics so that they are readily adopted and provide these benefits to the greatest number of consumers and therefore to the environment.