The Challenge of PLA: Why "Biodegradable Plastic" is Banned in Certain Places

Alfred Tang

Hatched by Alfred Tang

Apr 16, 2024

3 min read


The Challenge of PLA: Why "Biodegradable Plastic" is Banned in Certain Places


In recent news, there has been a discussion about the banning of PLA (polylactide) in various locations. PLA is a type of plastic that is considered biodegradable, making it an attractive alternative to traditional plastics. However, despite its eco-friendly properties, PLA faces challenges in terms of recycling and waste management. This article aims to explore the reasons behind the ban on PLA and shed light on the complexities of its disposal.

The Confusion Surrounding PLA:

PLA is classified as the seventh category of plastic, adding to the already complex six categories of traditional plastic recycling. This additional category has led to confusion among people who are already struggling to properly dispose of plastic waste. Furthermore, the lack of a comprehensive recycling concept and inefficient backend composting processes have resulted in PLA being treated as regular plastic waste. Even if PLA is correctly recycled, there are no manufacturers capable of reusing or repurposing it into compost.

The Legislative Gap:

Taiwan currently lacks legislation specifically addressing the recycling and composting mechanisms for PLA. This means that even if businesses are able to recycle and create compost from PLA, they cannot legally sell it. This hinders the circular flow of both money and materials. The absence of a clear legal framework for PLA's disposal has created a barrier to its effective management.

Similarities with Other Biodegradable Plastics:

PLA shares similarities with other biodegradable plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP). These plastics are also derived from biobased sources like corn and potatoes. However, the challenge lies in ensuring that these plastics meet the required standards for biodegradability. For example, according to the EN 13432 standard, plastic materials that pass heavy metal tests must degrade into fragments smaller than two millimeters within three months under controlled composting conditions. Additionally, 90% of the organic matter in the plastic should be converted into carbon dioxide within six months. Finally, the compost produced from the plastic should undergo biotoxicity testing to ensure that plants can thrive in it.

The Complexities of Composting:

Composting PLA requires careful temperature control, with the compost pile's temperature ideally maintained at 60℃. Regular watering and automated aeration are also necessary to create favorable conditions for the survival of microorganisms in the compost. Unfortunately, the existing infrastructure for composting in Taiwan falls short in meeting these requirements. As a result, the recycling rate for PLA in Taiwan is only around 5-6%.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Legislative Reform: Governments and policymakers should prioritize the development of comprehensive legislation that addresses the recycling, composting, and reuse of PLA. This would create a clear framework for businesses to operate within and encourage the circular flow of materials.
  • 2. Investment in Infrastructure: It is crucial to invest in the necessary infrastructure for efficient composting of PLA. This includes temperature-controlled facilities, regular watering systems, and automated aeration. By improving composting capabilities, the recycling rate of PLA can be significantly increased.
  • 3. Public Awareness and Education: Building public awareness and educating individuals about the proper disposal and recycling of PLA is essential. This can be achieved through public campaigns, educational programs, and accessible recycling facilities. Empowering citizens with knowledge and resources will encourage responsible waste management practices.


While PLA offers promising environmental benefits as a biodegradable plastic, its effective disposal and recycling remain significant challenges. The ban on PLA usage in certain places highlights the need for legislative reform, infrastructure investment, and public education. By addressing these issues, we can pave the way for a more sustainable approach to plastic waste management and create a truly circular economy.

Hatch New Ideas with Glasp AI 🐣

Glasp AI allows you to hatch new ideas based on your curated content. Let's curate and create with Glasp AI :)