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Biodegradable Products - Understanding the Truth

Aug 17, 2007
Biodegradable products should be good for the environment, but that's not always the case.

What Is Biodegradable?
To be classified as "biodegradable", a product must be able to be broken down naturally into the raw materials of nature and disappear into the environment. Truly biodegradable products will break down into:

-Bacteria
-Fungi
-Simple organisms
-Carbon
-Hydrogen
-Oxygen - Carbon dioxide Co2 and water H2O

Just because a product says its biodegradable, doesn't mean it's good for the environment. With no real guidelines available to aid consumers, many products may say they are biodegradable - and be technically telling the truth, since they'll eventually break down into nature (say, in about 30 years) -- but most consumers expect a product to be "green" when touted as biodegradable.

Being Biodegradable Isn't Always Safe.
Many biodegradable may break down in a reasonable amount of time (weeks or months), only to become hazardous to animals, humans and plant life afterwards. Take nonylphenolethoxylate (NDE), for example, an active ingredient found in many of today's cleaning supplies. Made solely of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, it should be completely biodegradable and safe for the environment. Yet, it isn't. Once broken down, it becomes a dangerous benzene ring that is hazardous to women, damaging their reproductive organs.

How Long It Takes Is Another Factor.
Another concern is how long it takes a product to break down into the environment. A piece of bread, for example, is completely biodegradable, and can break its complex sugars into simple ones within days, compared to paper, another completely biodegradable product which can take up to 5 months to degrade, even under perfect circumstances.

Another problem: our disposal procedures. When put into a natural compost pile, table scraps will degrade rather quickly. Left compacted amidst tons of garbage in a landfill, it can take years to break down. Researchers have found 25-year old apple cores and newspapers in near perfect condition, found in landfills with garbage from thousands of other households. Finding ways to better dispose of biodegradable materials will help in the breakdown process, making it quicker, easier and safer.

How long does it take for many so-called "natural" products to return to a natural state:

-Paper: 2-5 weeks
-Banana peel: 3-5 weeks
-Orange peels: 6 months
-Cotton rags 1-5 months
-Cigarette butts: 1-12 years
-Plastic or cardboard milk carton: 5 years

Returning To Nature.
Any product that comes from nature ' plants, animals, and minerals -- will eventually return to nature, given enough time and the right circumstances. But man-made petrochemical products cannot. There simply aren't any microorganisms found in nature that can break them down, leaving them to litter the earth for centuries to come.
About the Author
More Biodegradable Environment Articles at http://TheEnvironment-Today.com. Get Your Own Successful Niche Website Network at http://eWebCreator.com. Find out about our Adsense Secret with eWebCreator.com
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