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Biodegradable Plastics from Atlantic Poly for Earth Day

18 Apr 2011

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Oxo-Biodegradable Plastic bags are better for the environment because the last up to 5 years indoors. But once they are exposed to UV rays or intense heat, they start to degrade into natural waste. The length of time it takes for oxo-biodegradable products to degrade can be ‘programmed’ at the time of manufacture and can be as little as a few months or as much as a few years.
 
There are different types of biodegradable plastic, and their costs and uses are very different. The two main types are oxo-biodegradable and hydro-biodegradable. In both cases degradation begins with a chemical process, followed by a biological process. Both types emit CO2 as they degrade, but hydro-biodegradable can also emit methane. Both types are compostable, but only oxo-biodegradable can be economically recycled.
 
The overall process, from polymer to water, carbon dioxide and biomass is called oxo-biodegradation.

How Does Oxo Biodegradable Plastic Work?


The plastic does not just fragment, but will be consumed by bacteria and fungi after the additive has reduced the molecular structure to a level which permits living micro-organisms access to the carbon and hydrogen. It is therefore “biodegradable.”

The chemical degradation process involves the reaction of very large polymer molecules of plastics, which contain only carbon and hydrogen, with oxygen in the air. This reaction occurs even without prodegradant additives but at a very slow rate. Pro-degrading additives is a catalyst for this reaction and increases the rate of the degradation. Degradation begins when the programmed service life is over (controlled by the additive formulation) and the product is no longer required. The rate of degredation is dependent on the formulation and the disposal environment.

There is little or no additional cost involved in products made with this technology, which can be made with the same machinery and workforce as conventional plastic products.

This chemical process has been well known to polymer scientists for years. The ability to manage these processes in a predictable way – to balance the effect of catalytic additives with the effect of contained antioxidants, allows the production of products that satisfy needs and can also biodegrade at acceptable rates.