The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Biodegradable Plastics are superior to any other plastic.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/28/2012 Category: Technology
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,030 times Debate No: 21579
Debate Rounds (5)
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Votes (1)




I will argue that biodegradable plastics should become a primary resource for the world, rather than the typical plastics such as PET, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, etc. Con will provide evidence against biodegradable plastics, and for other types.
First round is to accept. I'm looking for a quick 5 round debate, which should be comprehensive and informative.


Hello bakhter,
as per requested, I accept :)
Debate Round No. 1


Great! Thanks for accepting.

First topic I would like to discuss is the impact of plastic on human health. I is well known that plastic is not a naturally occurring material, and nature does not treat it as such. Plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) wind up either washing up on the shores of our beaches and floating in the earths oceans. This brings up questions such as what this unnatural material does to our bodies if mother nature herself cannot digest the material. PET is a sturdy plastic that blocks oxygen water and carbon dioxide and is commonly used for water bottles, microwavable food trays and such. However, when these plastic objects are reused time and time again, it is a possibility that the plastic releases a toxin DEHA, which is known to cause liver problems, reproductive difficulties, and possibly cancer.
Another chemical that is shown to cause adverse effects that stem from plastics is Bisphenol-A (BPA). When this chemical is found in excess in the human body, it has been proved to be dangerous in many ways. Humans re exposed to BPA on a regular basis every day, and the exposure is as follows: less than 0.0147 mg/kg bw/day for children, less than 0.0015 mg/kg bw/day for adults and 0.0100 mg/kg bw/day for workers. This chemical is found present in many people, including pregnant women who have passed BPA onto their infant children, and although no behavioral conditions were examined first, when the children reached to the age of three, specifically women, the children began exhibiting problems such as aggression, inattention, hyperactivity, depression, and anxiety. Roughly 130 studies around the world have taken place and many of which have determined it is a dangerous chemical, and consequently, several areas in the United States have pulled all BPA products off of the shelves. Studies also show that BPA causes a 25% increase in possibility to have heart disease and diabetes.
Even the National Toxicology Program – Center For The Evaluation of Risks To Human Reproduction (NTP-CERHR) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decided to research this plastic on the grounds of its "widespread human exposure, public concern for possible health effects from human exposures, high production volume, [and] evidence of reproductive and developmental toxicity in laboratory animal studies." On their studies, they came to the conclusions that there is a certain amount of concern to be held for the effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children. It was also concluded that there was a minimal concern for children at an earlier age and the effects of BPA on their mammary gland causing puberty at an early age.

Another bad impact that regular plastics have on the world is what it is doing to the environment. Plastic has only been produced for around 100 years, and humans are faces with the confusion of what to do with the waste almost everyday. Often plastic is disposed of improperly, and because of this, it has wound up lost in the sea, on the beaches, or buried in the soil in the earth's forests. Plastic also has a well known effect on animals, causing millions of them to die each year by getting trapped in 6 pack rings and blocking the tubes for the digestive tract once consumed.

However, these problems can be treated with the availability of biodegradable plastics, which could replace the plastics in use today with something that the earth can actually break down and recycle itself. These plastics can be susceptible to decomposition, from photodegradation and biodegradation. Once these products are decomposed, they only turn into natural by-products such as carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.There are also different types of these plastics that can be used, such as Polyglycolic acid (PGA), Polylactic acid (PLA), Polycaprolactone (PCL), Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), Polyhydroxyvalerate (PHBV), Polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH), Polyvinyl acetate (PVAC), Polyenlketone (PEK), and several others are always being invented. Biodegradable plastics can very well be the solution to the current plastic problem that is injuring our earth and our bodies. It is much preferred to use something that is more natural and the earth actually recognizes it as something familiar instead of an entirely new and alien substance synthesized by humans.


Hello bakhter,

I will start by countering.

1.0 The impact of plastic on human health

1.1 You assess that traditional plastics could not be broken down by nature. That is true in the sense that it is extremely difficult for plastic to decompose naturally. Likewise, our bodies do not break down plastics. This implies that the majority of plastics simply pass through our body rather than being absorbed. This is supported by a study by Taylor & Francis which shows no significant leaching of PET bottles and no possible contaminations from hazardous chemicals even when present before. (Feron, VJ, et al, 2009)

1.2 The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classification of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) as a B2 “probable human” carcinogen is based on outdated information. (John, D. et al 1998). New data suggest that DEHP and other plasticizers as not genotoxic. The error comes from the original study using in-vivo administration of DEHP to rats and mice rather than food consumption.

1.3 Again, I would like to re-examine the behaviour study in children to ensue there is no spill-over cause from environment pressure, changing cultural norms…etc.

2.0 Environmental issue

2.1 While I agree that plastic could harm the ecology with animals “getting trapped in 6 pack rings and blocking the tubes for the digestive tract once consumed”, this also applies to bio-plastic products as they too could last several years in the ocean or open land waste (Pearce F. 2009). The crux therefore is to consider proper disposal technics such as landfills.

Given an opportunity, I would like to extend arguments of the following in the next round

4.0 Economics

4.1 Traditional plastics are superior as they are more economically viable to produce

4.2 Less spill-over effects to other industries such as food production

5.0 Technology

5.1 Ability to withstand corrosive chemicals and temperature

5.2 Ability to withstand shock and cushion impacts

5.3 Ability to recycle


V. J. Ferona, J. Jettena, N. De Kruijfa & F. Van Den Berg (2009) Polyethylene terephthalate bottles (PRBs): A health and safety assessment DOI:10.1080/02652039409374258

John Doulla, Russell Cattleyb, Cliff Elcombec, et al (1998) A Cancer Risk Assessment of Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate: Application of the New U.S. EPA Risk Assessment Guidelines. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology Volume 29, Issue 3, June 1999, Pages 327–357

Pearce F. (2009). Biodegradable plastic bags carry more ecological harm than good. The Guardian.

Debate Round No. 2


I would like to apologize in advance for not posting my references in my previous post, and I will post them at the end of this post.

I will start by addressing your previous points.

Although the effects of chemicals such as BPA have little effect on the human body, or almost none, it is true that when present, the chemical transfers from the placenta to the fetus during development, and continues on to mimic the hormone estrogen. Even scientists who say that the results show a consistent point that the chemical shows little or no effect, Prins has stated "There are too many positive findings by reputable laboratories to ignore." The study that Prins and Ho also showed precancerous prostate lesions in 100 percent of male rats exposed to BPA but in only 40 percent of the control group. Even if the risk of a toxin being present in plastic exists, it should be eliminated (or replaced) due to the fact that plastic is so fundamental and is in use with almost everything people come in contact with.

Also, although the plastic may still exist in the oceans or beaches for several years, it is still less than the hundreds that plastic will exist on the earth. This also effects the animals that consume the bio-plastic, because even when the plastic is consumed, the possibility for the plastic to decompose in the body is also available, thus reducing the number of animal fatalities.

In the terms of economics, although traditional plastics are cheaper to make than biodegradable plastics, and other industries may be affected, this does no make for a decent enough argument for people to not produce bio-plastics. This is because biodegradable plastics may very well be easy enough to produce once the science is perfected and ready for mass production. Also, plastics such as PLA are created from starch, which is derived from corn. PLA has a plastic-like consistency, tolerates heat up to 120�F , and freezer safe. PLA also conserves energy by using about half of the resources that go into traditional plastics.
Bio-plastic can also be more economically sound because of the reduced demand for fossil fuels, because they are created from biomass, they can reduce the demand for crude oil and such.

And for the technology aspect, advancements in technology is constantly occurring, and biodegradable plastics is still a relatively new process to be created. New chemical compounds are always being created, some with similar properties to plastics currently being used today. There should be no limit with creating chemical compounds that are all biodegradable with the advancements in technology that take place every day. Also, the ability to recycle is still possible by some plastics, and is not impossible.


Thanks for conceding on my point [1.1 - 1.2] “the effects of chemicals such as BPA have little effect on the human body, or almost none…” I would now try to persuade you that the others are equally invalid.

6.0 Artificial estrogenic exposures

6.1 First, I would refer you back to point 1.2 where I dispute the method of administration

6.2 It's also important to keep in mind that BPA and other chemicals leach out of the mostly upon heating or when the plastic becomes old, flaky, and cracked.

6.3 The WHO also assess that most of the BPA consumed pass out through urination. Justin Teeguarden also confirms the results and adds that much of the animal studies are not relevant as level of BPA exposure are much higher (Teeguarden JG. et al, 2011)

6.3 Besides, the entire discussion isn't necessarily even relevant since there are other plastics other than recycle code 3,6,7 where there's little evidence to say that harmful chemicals will leach out. Indeed most plastics used to store food is 5 where it is relatively safe.

7.0 Environmental Issues

7.1 Since you agree that bio-plastics could take several years, the proposition that plastics harm animals is valid since to chock an animal it does not take several years likewise to block the windpipe of animals, you do not need it to block for several years.

7.2 Decomposition within the animal, seriously? First the animal would most likely pass the foreign object out of their body by then, second, normally we do not want a generally un-absorbent object to change into absorbent substance which could potentially harm the body.

8.0 Economics

8.1 Since you concede that bio-plastic is more expensive to produce, I would not provide evidences supporting my claim.

8.2 Your argument that bio-plastic would be cheaper as technology evolves might be true, but we are purely speculating without basis.

8.3 current demand and supply for traditional plastics shows that traditional plastics trump by being economically viable to continue using it at least until it has become unsustainable to do so. To invest into bio-plastics (which may end up being economically unfeasible) means we would lose our economic advantage over countries which choose not to do so.

8.4 Most bio-plastic are made from starch. This means that the prices of plastic would directly influence food production. Should demand for plastic rise faster than food, we would see an inflation of food prices. While this may not seem much, as Americans food consumption occupies a low percentage of our income expenditure, to many in the poorer countries, this might mean starvation.

9..0 Given the dateline is fast approaching, I would reserve my argument about technology in the next round. (I do feel 12h as being rather short after coming back home)


Teeguarden JG, Calafat AM, Ye X, Doerge DR, Churchwell MI, Gunawan R, Graham MK. (2011) Twenty-four hour human urine and serum profiles of bisphenol a during high-dietary exposure, Toxicol Sci. 2011 Sep;123(1):48-57. Epub 2011 Jun 24.
Debate Round No. 3


In accordance with the claim that bio-plastics may require several years to decompose in the environment, this does not make any difference between regular plastic and bio-plastic, more of a consistency between types of plastics. And the possibility of an animal having a decomposition of the plastic inside the body is better than having regular plastic sit inside the body and simply kill or impair the animal in general. Also, bio-plastic would regularly be decomposed into normally consumed items such as carbon, carbon dioxide, water, biomass, and so on. This would regularly mean that this would not harm the animal if such a thing happens.

To your claim of traditional plastics being economically viable to continue at least until it has become unsustainable to do so shows how imperfect the traditional plastics may be, and they will have a due date for becoming a bad option for use.
Because bio-plastics are made from starch, from food items such as corn, this would influence food production, however, because corn is such a expendable product in the food market, it would not effect it entirely if growth of corn were more encouraged for bio-plastic.

Your previous claim about recycling can also prove to be invalid, mainly because currently, roughly 200 million tons of plastic is created in the world annually, and little is recycled. In 2008 plastic waste was at 33.6 million tons in the United States, and only 2.2 million tons (6.5%) was recycled, and the majority of the rest was either burned or discarded in landfills. However, recycling is not only for tradition plastics and can be implemented in bio-plastic such as PLA.

Here are the sources I have used over the past rounds in the debate.

Garthe, James W., and Paula D. Kowal. "The Chemical Composition of Degradable Plastics." Pennsylvania State University.

Hennessey, Jaime J. "Scientists Fear Chemical in Plastic Could Be Harmful." ABC News. 6 July 2006.

Kahn, Michael. "Common Plastics Chemical Linked to Human Diseases." Reuters. 16 Sept. 2008.

Knoblauch, Jessica A. "The Environmental Toll of Plastics." Environmental Health News. 2 July 2009.

Kovacs, Betty, and Melissa C. Stoppler. "Plastic." MedicineNet.

Roan, Shari. "Bisphenol A Exposure in Womb Affects Girls' Behavior - Los Angeles Times." Featured Articles From The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 24 Oct. 2011.

Shelby, Michael. NTP-CERHR Monograph On the Potential Human Reproductive and Developmental Effects of Bisphenol A. National Toxicology Program - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008.


Hello bakhter,

10.0 Decomposition of the plastic
10.1 It is true that majority of the decomposition products would be carbon dioxide; oxygen and water, bio-plastic also contain metals such as lead and cobalt to accelerate the decay process. These metals are known carcinogen (Kazantzis, G. 1981).

11.0 Economically viable to continue at least until it has become unsustainable
11.1 To argue that if a product has a due date is inferior is deeply flawed. First, our argument consists of at-this-moment comparison of traditional plastics and bio-plastics. This means currently, bio-plastics is still inferior to traditional in terms of cost.

12.0 "corn is such a expendable product…"
12.1 corns may be expendable however for farmers who want to make the most money he or she needs to do one or two things. First, farmers might want to consider clearing his field to grow corns instead of rice. This means lesser rice yield and thus higher prices for rice.
12.2 Second, farmers might want to clear forested land to grow additional cons. This thus would lead to unintended environmental effects which ultimately, government need to pump money to address. This in turn affects the consumers as we are the one who would be paying taxes.

13.0 Recycling
13.1 So far I have not given any argument about recycling except the points to help me remember. The small percentage of recycling does not nullify my claim since we are able to get back some of the cost of producing plastic as compared to bio-plastics which currently does not have any recycling programs.
13.2 This brings my next point as to why bio-plastics do not lend themselves to being recyclable. PLA have a high energy cost to produce and a relatively high energy cost to recycle. This means, it is more feasible to just produce the plastic from stock.
13.3 In contrast, traditional plastics takes low energy to produce and have a low energy cost (75% less) to recycle. (Hutchinson, 2008)

14.0 Uses
14.1 It may be true that increasingly, bio-plastics are lending themselves to a wider spectrum of uses. However, traditional plastics are still superior in quality and the variant of uses.

14.2 Plastic Surgery,
14.2a silicon is the go-to plastic for implants because it does not degenerate inside the human body. Indeed traditional plastics are selected for such uses as it has minimum environmental interaction unlike bio-plastics which are made with the opposite intention in mind

14.3 Storage and disposal of bio-chemical waste
14.3a again traditional plastics have the upper hand as we do not want contaminant to leach out

14.4 Fireproof material
14.4a Aerogel and other high heat plastics are ideal for use in shutter re-entry and other high heat environment.

14.5 Long lasting products
14.5a consumer items which are built to last such also do not use bio-plastics
14.6 I could go on about this but I think that enough examples for the day.

G Kazantzis (1981) Role of cobalt, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, platinum, selenium, and titanium in carcinogenesis. Environ Health Perspect. 1981 August; 40: 143–161
Hutchinson, A. (2008) Is Recycling Worth It? PM Investigates its Economic and Environmental Impact Popular Mechanic.
Debate Round No. 4


To the claim of bio-plastic containing metals such as lead and cobalt, this is only for specific types of plastic, and not all release these toxins. I would also like to point out to my opponent that the source he use is clearly outdated and was posted over thirty years ago. This would bring up the point that bio-plastic would have been scientifically altered to reduce the emissions of such carcinogens, and still does not make his point of traditional plastics being superior as the plastics still do the same thing they do now, and that it nothing but sit on the surface of the earth polluting the environment.

It is also important to notice the other alternative strategies that are being implemented in plastic production, via being powered by elimination of the fermentation step and utilizing food waste for a source of energy. (Petkewich 2003)

To the argument of the reduction of certain products in order to create more corn and such, I would like to point out that currently traditional plastics use non-renewable sources that simply cannot be recreated once used for the item, and currently humans rely on these resources for many more important things such as gasoline, energy, and so on. Although certain food prices may go up, this would imply that other products which are essential to everyday life would continue to live on and perhaps even reduce the prices due to lower demand of traditional plastics.

For the recycling topic, I would like to request evidence that backs your point of biodegradable plastics having no recycling programs. This means that I want to see that as of current day, there are no recycling programs, and not as of 5 years ago.

I disagree with your claim that traditional plastics are superior in quality as there is no backup towards that claim, as there are several bio-plastics that have similar if not exact properties that traditional plastics obtain. The only fact that is true is that bio-plastics are less produced, and cannot be used in such massive quantities as traditional plastics are.
Another asset of bio-plastic is the relatively newly investigated property of it being combined with other organic wastes, therefore eliminating a much larger amount of what was thought to be nonrecoverable solid waste. And again, different plastics mean different properties.


Petkewich, R. (2003). "Technology Solutions: Microbes manufacture plastic from food waste". Environmental Science & Technology,

And again, I would like to thank con for accepting to this debate and being a formidable opponent. I appreciate the time and effort you have put into arguing on this topic, and I apologize for the short time limit that was put on this debate.


Hello bakhter,

15.0 "bio-plastic … [are altered to] reduce the emissions of such carcinogens"
15.1 Alright, I concede that while most bio-plastics are within safe level of emission, others are more damaging (Franklin Associates 2006). Still, the BOP should be on you.

16.0 "sit on the surface of the earth polluting the environment"
16.1 Improper disposure of bio-plastics could also mean that occupy the same amount of time as traditional plastics. This is so since most bio-plastics typically require high heat and oxygen rich environment which can only be found in industrial compost bin (Wills A. 2010)

17.0 "Alternative strategies that are being implemented in plastic production"
17.1 Even with advance with the technology, the cost and energy involved are still more than traditional ones. (Petkewich, 2003. Ceresana Research, 2011)

18.0 "traditional plastics use non-renewable sources"
18.1 This is true; however, only 4% of our oil is being used for plastic production (Hutchinson, 2008). Furthermore, Cornucopian theory of perk oil guarantees that oil would never run out given constant improvement in technology and increase in price until it is not advantageous to continue using it. Hence, there is nothing wrong with using a non-renewable resource.

19.0 "biodegradable plastics having no recycling programs."
19.1 Although I believe the BOP lies with you, according to the US Energy Information Administration, biodegradable plastics that are made with 5% cornstarch or vegetable oil, cannot be recycled because the starch or oil additive compromises the quality of recycled plastics,

20.0 "superior in quality"
20.1 My point of quality only exists for the uses I named below. The fact that no bio-plastics are being used for say… shutter heat shield, makes one wonder why they chose it over bio-plastic given the similarity.

21.0 I am not quite clear about your last point and do not wish to confuse the reader by my interpretation, nonetheless, I am prepared to concede on it.

You certainly are welcome for fun and insightful debate and the same could be extended to you. No biggie about the time and wishing you all the best in the votes :)

Franklin Associates (2006) Life Cycle Inventory of Five Products Produced From Polylactide (PLA) and Petroleum-Based Resins. Athena Institute International
Wills Amanda (2010) Recycling Mystery: Bioplastic.
Ceresana Research. "Ceresana Research - Market Study Bioplastics".
Petkewich, R. (2003). "Technology Solutions: Microbes manufacture plastic from food waste". Environmental Science & Technology
Debate Round No. 5
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by darkkermit 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: PRO dos not provide a link to the sources. CON showed that plastics are not as harmful as PRO thought, that plastics are more economically viable and that bioplastics suffer some of the same effects as plastics