TL;DR (2-min read)
- Resin has become extremely popular online but has harmful side effects to the environment
- It is a polyethylene and cannot be broken down by microorganisms
- Although consumerism could cause resin to have drastic impacts on the planet, sustainable options are available. Just a few years ago, scientists formed a synthetic, fully biodegradable & recyclable resin that could replace harmful resin in the near future.
Earrings. Decor. Bracelets. TikTok’s small businesses include resin creations made into all of these things and more. By pouring resin epoxy into various molds, small businesses are able to make everything that you dream of. But what happens after they lose their meaning and you throw them away? For most materials, it takes a while for them to decompose in the environment. But like plastic, resin lifespan in landfills is much longer. It poses many dangers to the environment, causing consumers to call out businesses for their use of resin. Maybe we should be asking what really makes a product biodegradable and decomposable? And why is resin the one product consumers are quick to condemn?
1: How Do Objects Break Down?
Materials biodegrade with the use of living organisms, usually bacteria or fungi. There are many methods by which these organisms break down materials, but the fastest way is aerobically. When an organism breaks down materials aerobically, oxygen assists the organisms in decomposing the substance. To measure a substance’s biodegradability, reciprocity tests are done. A solid sample is mixed with soil and microorganisms and aerated, allowing the organisms to digest the sample and produce carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Based on how much carbon dioxide is produced, it’s easy for scientists to see a sample’s degradability. It’s easy for these organisms to break down natural substances like vegetables, flowers, and sometimes paper because it’s seen as food. But when a reciprocity test is done on plastic, nothing happens; no carbon dioxide is produced. This is because it is made of polyethylene, a man-made polymer that the microorganisms don’t recognize as food. While plastic can be broken down by the sun’s ultraviolet rays, microorganisms can’t break it down, making it extremely harmful to the environment.
2: Why is Resin So Bad for the Planet?
The same can be said about resin. Most resin is made from polyethylene and cannot be broken down organically. With the current generation’s extreme consumerism, the resin could seriously damage the environment. As soon as resin art becomes less trendy, consumers will immediately throw out their items and end up in landfills across the nation. Despite the threat resin seems to pose to the environment, there may be a way to allow for its production and consumption. Even though most resins are made from fossil fuels and can’t even be recycled, scientists in 2011 created a fully biodegradable and recyclable synthetic resin.
So to those who scroll past countless videos of resin pours, don’t fret just yet. Sustainable options are in the future for us.