Biothene FAQ

How long does it take to degrade ?
This depends on the conditions the Biothene is in and the thickness of the material. If it is kept in a box out of direct sunlight and heat it can be kept for up to 18 months or more. If it is left in the open and subject to heat and light it will degrade within 18 months approx.   Even if the bag is used and then put in landfill or somewhere dark it will still degrade as the process has already been triggered by the initial contact with the sunlight.
 
How does it work ?
The active agent is a metal ion and a catalyst which is added to the polythene when it is extruded. These react with sunlight and this reaction starts to break the molecular chains down in the material. 
 
How long has it been established ?
The original concept was developed in the 1970’s by The Royal College of Forestry in Stockholm. It was however not until 2002 that the product was further developed and improved to be able to be used more widely.
 
Can it be classed as compostable ?
No. According to the EN 13432compostable classification the material must breakdown within 3 months to be classed as compostable. Because we are aiming at a reusable material we wanted the material to last longer than 3 months so for classification purposes it can not be classed as compostable.
 
Is there any harmful residues left after it has degraded ?
No. The products produced are water, carbon dioxide, and a small amount of inert mineral oxides which naturally occur in the environment such as SiO2 and Fe304 etc..
This residues are non-toxic to the environment.
 
Can it be used for food contact ?
Yes. It complies with the EU directive 2002/72/EC and 2004/19/EC relating to plastic materials that come into contact with foodstuffs.

 
Is it made from Corn starch ?
No. The corn starch material has some major environmental and practical issues.   The material is made from corn based crops and the increased use of these for non food use is causing concerns. The price of the corn / wheat are being forced up by the increased use in bio-fuels and starch based materials., which means we are making it harder for the third world countries to source their essential basic food ingredients. Also there are areas of rain forest and natural habitats being cut down to grow these extra crops. The material is also currently not made in the UK so there are the carbon costs of transporting here.  Also in the process of degrading it emits methane, which is according to the AEAT report,  more than 23 more times potent for global warning than CO2.   There are also concerns that GM corn is being used to make the material which in turn has it’s issues.
 
Are Paper bags better than Biothene bags for the environment ?
No. 70% more atmospheric pollution is caused by making paper bags and 300% more energy. Also when they degrade they emit methane.
 
Paper bags can not be reused as many times as Biothene bags as they are not as strong and breakdown if they get wet.
 
On average, it would cost approximately 7 times more to transport the same number of paper bags as it would Biothene bags due to the bulkiness of the paper bags.  
 
Are cotton / nylon bags better than Biothene bags ?
There are a lot of drawbacks with the nylon / cotton bags. Firstly their convenience. It is not always possible to have one or enough of them when you are out shopping. Many people shop spontaneously and it is not always possible to have them to hand.   They are also a lot bulkier than Biothene bags and carrying a large number of these to do your weekly shopping is also inconvenient. Finally these bags are not waterproof and items inside them can possibly get water damaged. 
 
Is there a classification or standard that exists for Biothene ?
We are currently working towards a British Standard BS 8472:200X  for degradable polythene.
 
How does it differ in looks and feel different to normal polythene ?
Biothene differs only in that is has a very slight brown tint. It is not noticeable on individual bags but can be seen if stacked together. Otherwise it has the same strength, feel and other properties of normal polythene.
 
Can it be recycled ?
Because the material degrades there is no need for it to be recycled. It is a material which can be reused multiple times and then left to degrade afterwards..
 
Where is it made ?
At present it is manufactured in the UK only under licence by Poly Postal Packaging Limited

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