PLASTICS ADDITIVES – BIODEGRADERS

With greater environmental concerns over plastics waste, especially from packaging, biodegradable materials are in greater demand.  The use of biodegraders can produce a high degree of biodegradability in a polymer without any effect on its performance.  Furthermore, they have food contact approvals.

However, biodegradation should be the last resort.  Plastics can be recycled, they have value as chemicals and they can be burned to generate heat.

Please Note: This page is for information purposes only. Rutland Plastics is an Injection Moulder and does not supply plastics additives.

DEFINITIONS

For a material to be biodegradable there are two requirements.  Firstly, it should become brittle when exposed to UV light or heat rapidly enough to visually disappear.  Secondly, the degraded material must be susceptible to biological attack giving complete conversion to biomass over an appropriate period of time without the release of toxic products.

There are two officially defined levels:

  • Biodegradable – If the product biodegrades by more than 60% within the 28 day test period
  • Readily Biodegradable – If the product biodegrades within the first 10 days

For comparison, vegetable oils are said to be 95-100% biodegradable so have virtually no adverse effect on the environment.

APPLICATIONS

Polyolefins are the most widely used polymers and additives can be used to induce accelerated oxidation of these materials on exposure to UV light or heat.  The heat aspect is important as it means the material will still biodegrade even if covered with soil.

These materials are widely used in agriculture, for instance films to cover soil so raising temperature, prevention of weed growth, moisture retention and improved crop yields.  The film then disintegrates and biodegrades as the crops grow.

Another use is the green bags distributed by local councils for the collection of garden and vegetable waste.  These are then composted without the need to first empty the contents.