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The truth about bioplastics

 Bioplastics can include toxic additives to increase their performance.

 Bioplastics, like PLA, are only compostable in industrial facilities, something that most communities don’t have

 Bioplastics like PLA are sold as a sustainable solution to conventional plastic, but they can take hundreds of years to decompose.

 Despite a push from the White House, these false solutions make America's plastic problem worse under the guise of solving the problem.


Bioplastics are not the answer to the problem of plastic pollution. Plastic harms ocean wildlife, is detrimental to human health and is a major contributor to climate change. From initial production to ending as landfill or litter, plastic is a problem. That’s why Surfrider advocates for ceasing production of unnecessary single-use plastics and switching to reusable or truly recyclable items – the most effective ways to prevent the harm caused by plastic litter, microplastics and toxic, fossil-fuel intensive production facilities.

Bioplastic materials are not a preferred alternative to conventional plastics. Most bioplastic materials do not break down in the marine environment, shift the burden to other resources and perpetuate a single-use, “business as usual” mentality.


Surfrider’s Bioplastics Toolkit. This toolkit serves as a resource for those looking for information and guidance on bioplastics. It provides a background on why bioplastics are problematic, what the federal and state governments are doing, policy guidance and recommendations on how to avoid bioplastics.

Beachapedia’s Bioplastics page. In recent years, new materials collectively called “bioplastics” have entered the market. These products are advertised as a sustainable alternative to plastic, and often labeled as biodegradable or compostable. Beachapedia can help consumers, businesses, and the general public make informed choices as they try to live an ocean friendly lifestyle. 

Bioplastic Guidance for Ocean Friendly Restaurants (English) & (Spanish) Bioplastics can be a very complicated topic. Share this guide with current and potential Ocean Friendly Restaurants to help clean up any confusion and explain why Surfrider doesn’t support bioplastics as a solution to traditional single-use plastics.

2023 Study Confirms 'Biodegradable' Plastics and Fabrics Actually Not. Buying clothing, rugs and other fabric products marketed as "sustainable," "biodegradable" or "recycled" seems, on the surface, to be a better choice for the environment. But under the surface – specifically, in the ocean – those textiles are proving that plastic always remains a problem. A new study from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography has determined that only natural fibers degrade in the marine environment, while plastic fabrics remain intact one year later.

2020 Beach Cleanup Report. Surfrider’s 2020 Beach Cleanup Report explores the complex topic of bioplastics and how bio-based materials behave when they’re no longer in use. Anxious to do the right thing, businesses and consumers are constantly seeking better alternatives to plastic, with bioplastics taking on a big role as potential sustainable replacements for single-use items like straws, cups, utensils and bags. Unfortunately, bioplastics are still ending up as pollution on our beaches and are often just as harmful as petroleum-based plastic. The Beach Cleanup Report breaks down what bioplastics are and how they may be distracting us from real solutions like reuse and refill.

Plastic is Plastic – Don't be Fooled by Compostability Claims. With a variety of “green” plastic alternatives, plastic producers are selling the concept that single-use disposable products are harmless if made of plant-based starches like sugar or corn rather than petroleum. However, claims that the products are compostable don’t account for the fact that these plastics require a commercial composting facility to break down – and very few communities actually have such facilities. In 2019, Oregon composters even put this notice together explaining why they do not accept “compostable” packaging and serviceware. Further, these plastics will not degrade in the ocean, thus offering no improvement to conventional plastic if the waste ends up littered on the beach or dropped into waterways and washed out to sea. 

Bioplastic issues and concerns. Further reading from our movement partners at Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).