2023 article

Aerobic aquatic biodegradation of bio-based and biodegradable polymers: Kinetic modeling and key factors for biodegradability

Kwon, S., Zambrano, M. C., Venditti, R. A., & Pawlak, J. J. (2023, November). INTERNATIONAL BIODETERIORATION & BIODEGRADATION, Vol. 185.

By: S. Kwon n, M. Zambrano n, R. Venditti n & J. Pawlak n

author keywords: Bioplastics; Bio-based polymers; Aquatic biodegradation; Biodegradation kinetics; Crystallinity; Hydrophilicity
Source: Web Of Science
Added: March 4, 2024

With the increasing concern about plastic waste, numerous efforts have been made to find substitutes for existing non-biodegradable synthetic polymers. Bio-based and/or purported petroleum-based biodegradable polymers are considered probable plastic replacement candidates. However, the durability of non-biodegradable plastic is a key feature of plastics. Thus, a balance must be achieved between biodegradation and environmental material stability. The objective of this study is to determine the impact of crystallinity, molecular chemistry, and hydrophilicity on the rate of aquatic biodegradation of biobased plastic materials. In the present study, twelve bio-based/purported biodegradable materials were investigated under aerobic aquatic biodegradation conditions for 56 days by tracking oxygen consumption. Crystallinity, hydrophobicity, chemistry, and chemical structure were varied to understand potential means for controlling the rate of biodegradation. The biodegradation kinetics were analyzed and discussed, relating to the characteristics of polymers. Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), Chitosan, Rayon, Polyhydroxy-butyrate-co-valerate (PHBV), PHBH, and Polybutylene succinate (PBS) showed the biodegradation extents over 70% at 56 days. Cellulose acetates (CAs) and Polylactic acid (PLA) showed biodegradation extent lower than 20%. The chemistry of the polymer backbone chain, substituent structure, and degree of substitution were the dominant factors affecting biodegradation. The crystallinity of the polyesters had a negative correlation with the initial biodegradation rate and the ultimate biodegradation of polyesters, and the hydrophobicity of the polymers delayed the initiation of biodegradation. The aerobic aquatic biodegradation results related to the polymer characteristics are useful for product designers and environmental scientists to understand the fate of these polymeric materials in the environment.