Bioplastics, or "biodegradable" or "compostable” plastics, are products made from natural renewable plant-based substances instead of fossil fuels (which is why most bioplastics bear an "eco-friendly" leaf on the product).
However, most bioplastics don't fully break down in home composts, landfills, or the environment, and many bioplastics contain significant amounts of conventional plastic. Further, most bioplastics require commercial composting facilities employing controlled conditions to correctly process and break down the bioplastics. At this time, there are no commercial bioplastic processors in Key West.
Bioplastics can also contaminate municipal recycling waste streams when people unknowingly add them to their recycling. When illegally discarded in the environment, they act like conventional plastics and can break down into harmful microplastics.
Key West recommends that we treat bioplastics no differently than plastic for now. For more information on bioplastics in our environment, visit our Business Resource Partner.
Regarding plastic recycling, less than 10% of all plastic produced is currently recycled. Many plastic products degrade each time they're recycled and reprocessed — unlike metal or glass, which can be perpetually recycled — making plastics progressively less valuable. In Key West, the only recycled plastics are bottled-shaped plastics, which means that all other plastics, including plastic bags, utensils, and straws, are headed straight for the landfill, or worse, our environment, despite being put inside the recycling bins.