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Visit us at http://www.biosphereplastic.com Are biodegradable plastics really biodegradable?

The question in most peoples mind is if biodegradable plastics are really biodegradable. From the start of its development which was way before the 20th century, biodegradable plastics have seen massive developments. Biodegradable has come to age with several standards being developed to put controls and checks to ensure all that is labeled as biodegradable plastics qualifies and meets standards of biodegradation. Biodegradation is the ability of a material to be broken down by microorganisms into carbon dioxide, water and biomass in the presence of oxygen. Microbes use organic materials for survival energy. Microbes release enzymes on the organic materials. The enzymes act as a catalyst and aid in the conversion of the organic materials into glucose. Once the material has been converted into glucose, the microbes absorb the glucose is broken down to energy which the microbes use as food. Water and oxygen are released in the process. For plastic to be referred as biodegradable, it must go through that process. What makes biodegradable plasticsbiodegradable Biodegradable plastics are biodegradable if it can be acted upon by microbes in the presence of oxygen and completely broken down into water, carbon dioxide and biomass. There are two forms of plastics; plastics created from petrochemicals and plastics that have been created from agricultural sources. By nature, agricultural products are biodegradable. This follows that any material that is created from agricultural produce can be able to biodegrade. Plastics that are made from agricultural produce will break down in the presence of water, oxygen and microbes into biomass. There are three terms that are related but are not the same when it comes to biodegradation; degradation, compostable and biodegradation. Degradation means that a material can be broken down into fragments. Being broken down into fragments does not mean any change in structure of the material. The only thing that happens is that the material becomes invisible. Compostable means that the material is broken down in a composting facility in the presence of oxygen and water. The end product is biomass, water and carbon dioxide. Compostable is a form of biodegradation but biodegradation is not entirely compositing. Petrochemical based plastics can also be made to biodegrade. Biodegradable additives where developed. The additives are added to the petrochemical based plastic making them be able to break down. The additives make the plastics biodegradable by breaking them down. The additives make the plastics structure simpler for the microbes to be able to biodegrade the plastic. The additives make the oxygen to combine with the plastic structure in the presence of UV radiation and heat. UV radiation is present in the natural light. Once oxygen has combined with the polymer structure the plastic becomes easier for the microbes to act on the plastic and break it down naturally.

Why should plastic be biodegradable For a long time, plastic which is almost in everything we use turned out to be both an environmental and health hazard. This was so because most of the plastic was made from synthetic materials oil and petrol being the raw materials. The plastics once created last longer that the human lifespan. The plastics stay in the environment causing conditions in the environment that leads not unnatural degradation of the substances that they hold. Sometimes the plastics are washed down by flowing water into water bodies. Inside the water bodies, the aquatic animals confuse the plastics with food. When the animals especially the fish consume the material s they die. A solution had to be found to get rid of this environmental hazard. Biodegradable plastics had existed even before the motor vehicle was invented but their presence was overridden by the discovery of an easy way of creating the plastic which is by use of oil products. It is this new discovery that led to the numerous problems and had to be solved. Biodegradable plastic was developed to be able to be broken down so that the existence in the environment is shortened and what remains after their existence is beneficial to both human beings and the environment. The plastic should be able to biodegrade so that its existence within the environment is minimized resulting in less harm. How biodegradable is biodegradable plastic Scientific definitions have been developed to define what can be defined as biodegradable. There are three standards which the product has to meet before it can be labeled as biodegradable. ASTM D6400 is a standard to certify if a product is composted. A product that passes this test is compostable. ASTM D6868 is a standard to certify that a product is biodegradable. EN 13432 is a European test to determine the biodegradability of plastics. Products which have passed this test qualify for each category. That means the products can biodegrade within the durations that have been specified within the standard. The materials will have no harm to soil, farm or agricultural production. We should be able to differentiate between plastics that are compostable and ones that are biodegradable. Compostable plastics will not biodegrade unless they are placed in an industrial composting facility. Biodegradable plastics can biodegrade in two environments; aerobic and anaerobic. An aerobic environment is an environment that has oxygen. Microbes must be present for the plastic to biodegrade. If the plastic is subjected to a different environment which is not aerobic, the plastic will not biodegrade. Another environment for biodegradable plastic is anaerobic environment. There is no air in anaerobic environment. Heat must be present in anaerobic environment. Microorganisms use oxygen from compounds that have the oxygen. Plastic that are meant to biodegrade in aerobic environment will not biodegrade in anaerobic environment and vice versa. In Conclusion

When checking biodegradability in plastic, you need to check the category under which the plastic is categorized. Biodegradable plastics should be differentiated from compostable plastics. Each classification has to be given the desirable condition for them to biodegrade. The plastic must have been tested in a lab and meet the standards. Materials which have been tested are given labels and clearly labeled. If the plastic has not been tested and does not meet the standards, the plastic may biodegrade or not. To answer the question on whether are biodegradable plastic really biodegradable, the answer is yes, if they meet the biodegradability standards.