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Each of these potential solutions has its drawbacks, such as high water use, carbon emissions, or toxicity of byproducts, but are ultimately a step toward a more sustainable future. It was first introduced in The waste management infrastructure currently recycles regular plastic waste, incinerates it, or places it in a landfill.


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Mixing biodegradable plastics into the regular waste infrastructure poses some dangers to the environment. Both compostable plastics and biodegradable plastics are materials that break down into their organic constituents; however, composting requires strict control of environmental factors, including higher temperatures, pressure and nutrient concentration, as well as specific chemical ratios. These conditions can only be recreated in industrial composting plants, which are few and far between. Contrary to popular belief, non-biodegradable compostable plastics do indeed exist. These plastics will undergo biodegradation under composting conditions but will not begin degrading until they are met.

An example of a non-biodegradable compostable plastic is PLA refer to Types section. The ASTM standard definition outlines that a compostable plastic has to become "not visually distinguishable" at the same rate as something that has already been established as being compostable under the traditional definition. A plastic is considered a bioplastic if it was produced partly or wholly with biologically sourced polymers.


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A plastic is considered biodegradable if it can degrade into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass in a given time frame dependent on different standards. Thus, the terms are not synonymous. PET is a petrochemical plastic, derived from fossil fuels. Bio-based PET is the same petrochemical plastic however it is synthesized with bacteria. Bio-based PET has identical technical properties to its fossil-based counterpart. In addition, oxo-degradable plastics are commonly perceived to be biodegradable. However, they are simply conventional plastics with additives called prodegredants that accelerate the oxidation process.

While oxo-degradable plastics rapidly break down through exposure to sunlight and oxygen, they persist as huge quantities of microplastics rather than any biological material. All materials are inherently biodegradable, whether it takes a few weeks or a million years to break down into organic matter and mineralize. Additionally, companies that label plastics with oxo-biodegradable additives as entirely biodegradable contribute to misinformation.

Similarly, some brands may claim that their plastics are biodegradable when, in fact, they are non-biodegradable bioplastics. Microbial Degradation: The primary purpose of biodegradable plastics is to replace traditional plastics that persist in landfills and harm the environment. Therefore, the ability of microorganisms to break down these plastics is an incredible environmental advantage.

Microbial degradation is accomplished by 3 steps: colonization of the plastic surface, hydrolysis, and mineralization. First, microorganisms populate the exposed plastics. Next, the bacteria secrete enzymes that bind to the carbon source or polymer substrates and then split the hydrocarbon bonds. The process results in the production of H 2 O and CO 2. Despite the release of CO 2 into the environment, biodegradable plastics leave a smaller footprint than petroleum-based plastics that accumulate in landfills and cause heavy pollution, which is why they are explored as alternatives to traditional plastics.

Of that, 2. This 8. Depressed plastics recovery rates can be attributed to conventional plastics are often commingled with organic wastes food scraps, wet paper, and liquids , leading to accumulation of waste in landfills and natural habitats. As of , food scraps and wet, non-recyclable paper respectively comprise Biodegradable plastics can replace the non-degradable plastics in these waste streams, making municipal composting a significant tool to divert large amounts of otherwise nonrecoverable waste from landfills.

Rather than worrying about recycling a relatively small quantity of commingled plastics, proponents argue that certified biodegradable plastics can be readily commingled with other organic wastes, thereby enabling composting of a much larger portion of nonrecoverable solid waste. Commercial composting for all mixed organics then becomes commercially viable and economically sustainable. More municipalities can divert significant quantities of waste from overburdened landfills since the entire waste stream is now biodegradable and therefore easier to process.

This move away from the use of landfills may help alleviate the issue of plastic pollution. The use of biodegradable plastics, therefore, is seen as enabling the complete recovery of large quantities of municipal solid waste via aerobic composting and feedstocks that have heretofore been unrecoverable by other means except land filling or incineration.

Oxo-biodegradation: There are allegations that biodegradable plastic bags may release metals, and may require a great deal of time to degrade in certain circumstances [42] and that OBD oxo-biodegradable plastics may produce tiny fragments of plastic that do not continue to degrade at any appreciable rate regardless of the environment. They contain salts of metals, which are not prohibited by legislation and are in fact necessary as trace-elements in the human diet.

Oxo-biodegradation of polymer material has been studied in depth at the Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Effect on Food Supply: There is also much debate about the total carbon, fossil fuel and water usage in manufacturing biodegradable bioplastics from natural materials and whether they are a negative impact to human food supply.

Methane Release: There is concern that another greenhouse gas, methane , might be released when any biodegradable material, including truly biodegradable plastics, degrades in an anaerobic landfill environment. Methane production from managed landfill environments is captured and used for energy [49] ; some landfills burn this off through a process called flaring to reduce the release of methane into the environment. In the US, most landfilled materials today go into landfills where they capture the methane biogas for use in clean, inexpensive energy.

Disposing of non-biodegradable plastics made from natural materials in anaerobic landfill environments will result in the plastic lasting for hundreds of years. Biodegradation in the Ocean: Biodegradable plastics that have not fully degraded are disposed of in the oceans by waste management facilities with the assumption that the plastics will eventually break down in a short amount of time. However, the ocean is not optimal for biodegradation, as the process favors warm environments with an abundance of microorganisms and oxygen.

Remaining microfibers that have not undergone biodegradation can cause harm to marine life. Various researchers have undertaken extensive life cycle assessments of biodegradable polymers to determine whether these materials are more energy efficient than polymers made by conventional fossil fuel-based means. Research done by Gerngross , et al. This information does not take into account the feedstock energy, which can be obtained from non-fossil fuel based methods. Polylactide PLA was estimated to have a fossil fuel energy cost of They report making a kilogram of PLA with only In contrast, polypropylene and high-density polyethylene require Gerngross reports a 2.

Furthermore, it is important to realize the youth of alternative technologies. Technology to produce PHA, for instance, is still in development today, and energy consumption can be further reduced by eliminating the fermentation step, or by utilizing food waste as feedstock. For instance, "manufacturing of PHAs by fermentation in Brazil enjoys a favorable energy consumption scheme where bagasse is used as source of renewable energy.

Many biodegradable polymers that come from renewable resources i. For the US to meet its current output of plastics production with BPs, it would require 1. ASTM International defines methods to test for biodegradable plastic, both anaerobically and aerobically , as well as in marine environments. The specific subcommittee responsibility for overseeing these standards falls on the Committee D Standard specifications create a pass or fail scenario whereas standard test methods identify the specific testing parameters for facilitating specific time frames and toxicity of biodegradable tests on plastics.

Both standards above outline procedures for testing and labelling biodegradability in aerobic composting conditions. EN - Packaging: requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation [67]. EN - Evaluation of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability and disintegration of packaging materials under controlled composting conditions. Oxo-degradable plastics cannot be classified as biodegradable under American and European standards because they take too long to break down and leave plastic fragments not capable of being consumed by microorganisms.

Although intended to facilitate biodegradation, oxo-degradable plastics often do not fragment optimally for microbial digestion. Lignin-based polymer composites are bio-renewable natural aromatic polymers with biodegradable properties. Lignin is found as a byproduct of polysaccharide extraction from plant material through the production of paper, ethanol, and more.

Lignin is neutral to CO 2 release during the biodegradation process. Lignin contains comparable chemical properties in comparison to current plastic chemicals, which includes reactive functional groups, the ability to form into films, high carbon percentage, and it shows versatility in relation to various chemical mixtures used with plastics.

Lignin is also stable, and contains aromatic rings. It is both elastic and viscous yet flows smoothly in the liquid phase. Most importantly lignin can improve on the current standards of plastics because it is antimicrobial in nature. With rising concern for environmental ramifications of plastic waste, researchers have been exploring the application of genetic engineering and synthetic biology for optimizing biodegradable plastic production.

This involves altering the endogenous genetic makeup or other biological systems of organisms. Although a high yield was not produced, this displays the early use of genetic engineering for production of biodegradable plastics. Efforts are still being made in the direction of biodegradable plastic production through genetic fabrication and re-design. Previous research indicated that both Rre37 and SigE proteins are separately responsible for the activation of PHB production in the Synechocystis strain of cyanobacteria. Thus, in this study, the Synechocystis strain was modified to overexpress Rre37 and SigE proteins together under nitrogen-limited conditions.

The project aims to demonstrate that waste polystyrene can effectively be used as a carbon source for biodegradable plastic production, tackling both issues of polystyrene waste accumulation in landfills and high production cost of PHAs. Biodegradable Conducting Polymers CPs are a polymeric material designed for applications within the human body. Important properties of this material are its electrical conductivity comparable to traditional conductors and its biodegradability.

The medical applications of biodegradable CPs are attractive to medical specialties such as tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. This is achieved through use of nanocomposite scaffolding. The design of biodegradable CPs began with the blending of biodegradable polymers including polylactides, polycaprolactone, and polyurethanes. This design triggered innovation into what is being engineered as of the year The current biodegradable CPs is applicable for use in the biomedical field. The compositional architecture of current biodegradable CPs includes the conductivity properties of oligomer-based biodegradable polymers implemented into compositions of linear, starshaped, or hyperbranched formations.

Another implementation to enhance the biodegradable architecture of the CPs is by use of monomers and conjugated links that are degradable. These molecules, upon external stimulation, go on to be cleaved and broken down.

MarinaTex - a bioplastic made from fish waste

The cleaving activation process can be achieved through use of an acidic environment, increasing the temperature, or by use of enzymes. The first category includes partially biodegradable CP blends of conductive and biodegradable polymeric materials. The second category includes conducting oligomers of biodegradable CPs. The third category is that of modified and degradable monimer units along with use of degradable conjugated links for use in biodegradable CPs polymers.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Addressing these knowledge gaps will provide much-needed information to growers and regulators on the safety and sustainability of BDMs for agroecosystems. SB and JD conceived of the review topic and were responsible for final editing.

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. We are grateful to D. Hayes, S. Guerrini, D. Martens, and L. Tymon for providing valuable critical feedback on a draft of this manuscript. Europe PMC requires Javascript to function effectively.

Recent Activity. The snippet could not be located in the article text. This may be because the snippet appears in a figure legend, contains special characters or spans different sections of the article. Front Microbiol. Published online Apr PMID: Pelacho , 2 and Jennifer M.

Biodegradable Plastics for Agriculture | Farming Connect

Ana M. Jennifer M. DeBruyn, ude. This article was submitted to Terrestrial Microbiology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. Received Jan 10; Accepted Apr The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Abstract Agricultural plastic mulch films are widely used in specialty crop production systems because of their agronomic benefits. Keywords: biodegradable plastic, plastic mulch, polyethylene, specialty crops, soil microbiology, soil microclimate, soil biogeochemistry, soil health. Introduction: Agricultural Plastic Mulch Films Agricultural plastic mulch films are used in production of specialty crops to modify soil temperatures, conserve soil moisture Kader et al.

Indirect Effects of Plastic Mulches on Soils via Microclimate Modification One way that plastic mulches both BDMs and PE may indirectly affect soil ecosystems and microbial community functioning is via modification of soil microclimate and atmosphere. Open in a separate window. Future Research Opportunities Biodegradable plastic mulches are a promising alternative to PE plastic film mulches. Conflict of Interest Statement The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Above-soil and in-soil degradation of oxo- and bio-degradable mulches: a qualitative approach

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Biodegradable plastic

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