Bioplastic Market to Boost with New Approach That Can Break Compostable Plastics by Heat and Water
Posted On September 17, 2021
Biodegradable plastics are considered to be a critical weapon against the plastic pollution problem worrying the world. However, the compostable plastic bags, cup lids, and utensils available currently in the market do not break down in the typical composting. Instead, they lead to contamination of other recyclable plastics, becoming a big hurdle for recyclers. The problem with compostable plastics is that they are largely made of polyester, referred to as polylactic acid (PLA), and as they end up in landfills, they last as long as plastics.
To tackle this problem, researchers have invented a new approach that would help break compostable plastic more easily with the use of just heat and water. The technique would be a great contribution to advance the Bioplastic Market as it would be able to solve the problem of the plastic industry and several environmentalists in just a few weeks.
Researchers stated that the innovative technology would ideally be applicable to other polyester plastics, potentially allowing the creation of compostable plastic containers. At present, these containers are made from polyethylene, a form of polyolefin that does not degrade easily. The team is of the view that polyolefin plastics would be better used as higher value products instead of compost and are now working towards converting these plastics for reuse.
In the new process, polyester-eating enzymes are embedded within the plastics while they are being made. The enzymes are protected through a simple polymer wrapping that would restrict the enzymes from entangling and thus becoming useless. When the enzyme comes in contact with heat and water, it removes the polymer shroud from itself and eats the plastic polymer into building blocks. When it comes to PLA, it reduced the polylactic acid to lactic acid, which can then nourish the soil microns into compost. The whole process can help eliminate microplastics. As per the evidence provided, the technique was able to degrade 98% of the plastic and make it into small molecules.
The degradation can be triggered only by adding water and a little bit of heat. At room temperature, 80% of the engineered PLA managed to degrade completely in just one week. The study reflected that degradation was quicker at higher temperatures.
The key to the accomplishment lies in the finding that if the enzyme is only present on the surface of the plastic, then it would degrade very slowly. It is necessary to distribute it nanoscopically everywhere so that all of them are only required to eat away their polymer neighbors to disintegrate the material wholly.
The novel discovery is amazing and could be critical to recycle numerous objects in the future. The team stated that one of the applications could be using biodegradable glue to assemble computer circuits, and then when the work is done, the glue can be dissolved, disintegrating the parts for further reuse.