Increasing number of wasted polymers forces changes in the polymer’s synthesis process. Currently, the production of the biodegradable plastics presents a strong trend.
The big advantage of biodegradable polymers is that they are more sensitive to environmental factors, when compared to the regular polymers.
The most influential factors for biodegradation are oxygen, microorganism and water. They help to reduce the molecular weight of the polymer, which is how the biodegradation starts.
Biodegradation- two step process
Biodegradation can be described as a two step process. During the first step, the polymer chain is fragmented in order to reduce the molcular weight and to obtain smaller molecules, known as oligomers.
Second step depends on the environmental conditions and can be either oxy-biodegradation or hydro-biodegradation.
Oxy-biodegradation & Prodegradant
The oxy-biodegradation requires presence of oxygen and the final products are organic matter, water and CO2. Oxy-biodegradable synthetic polymers are obtained in a very simple technology, it is sufficient to add special catalyst (prodegradant) to the polymerization reaction.
Prodegradant assists during biodegradation process in opened as well as in closed environments. The process does not need the water. Moreover, the researchers confirmed that the final products of degradation are safe for food and soil.
Oxy-biodegradable polymers can be made from recycled materials.
In the case of hydro-biodegradation the hydrolyze reaction is a base for this process. The materials which are hydro-biodegradable are mostly natural polymers, such as starch or polymers made from corn and GMO plants.
The water and biologically active environment are needed to initiate the hydrolyze reaction. The final products of hydro-biodegradation are organic matter, water and methane.
Simple, isn’t it?