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New Plastic Mixture Can Achieve Complete Degradation.
- Sep 03, 2018 -

Imagine throwing an empty plastic water bottle into a household compost bin, breaking down the plastic and producing biogas and providing electricity for the family. Now, researchers have shown that bioplastics and certain mixtures can break down under different conditions, signaling an important step forward in this future scenario. And they reported their results in the ACS journal "Environmental Science & Technology".

White pollution is a global environmental problem, especially in the oceans, where plastic debris or strips can damage or entangle animals and birds in the oceans, causing them to die. Although plastic recycling has improved in many countries, most plastic waste still exists in landfills or in our living environment. Scientists have developed biodegradable plastics, but they often lack the flexibility, strength or toughness of traditional plastics. Mixtures of different bioplastics can improve these properties, but their harmony with the environment is uncertain. Tanja Narancic, Kevin O'Connor, Ramesh Babu Padamati and their colleagues wanted to study the degradation of various bioplastics and their mixtures under various conditions.

The researchers studied the degradation of 15 different plastics and their mixtures under managed conditions, such as composting and anaerobic conditions. As well as in non management environment, i.e. degradation in soil and fresh water or sea water. Polylactic acid (PLA) is one of the best-selling biodegradable plastics on the market, but it needs to be decomposed at high temperatures and cannot be composted at home. Surprisingly, under typical home composting conditions, a mixture of PLA and polycaprolactone (PCL) can be completely degraded to carbon dioxide, biomass and water. Many individual plastics and mixtures are tested to be decomposed under anaerobic digestion conditions, a process that produces biogas, and all plastics are degraded by industrial composting. Researchers say biodegradable plastic mixtures can create new possibilities for the management of plastic waste. However, in all soil and water conditions, only two plastics, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) and thermoplastic starch (TPS), can be completely decomposed. Therefore, biodegradable plastics are not the best way to solve plastic pollution, the researchers pointed out that biodegradable plastics must be effectively managed after consumers use.