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Anaerobic Degradability of Commercially Available Bio-Based and Oxo-Degradable Packaging Materials in the Context of Their End of Life in the Waste Management Strategy

There are discrepancies concerning the time frame for biodegradation of different commercially available foils labeled as biodegradable; thus, it is essential to provide information about their biodegradability in the context of their end of life in waste management. Therefore, one-year mesophilic (37 °C) anaerobic degradation tests of two bio-based foils (based on starch (FS), polylactic acid (FPLA)) and oxo-degradable material (FOXO) were conducted in an OxiTop system. Biodegradation was investigated by measuring biogas production (BP) and analyzing structural changes with differential scanning calorimetry, polarizing and digital microscopic analyses, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. After 1 year, FOXO had not degraded; thus, there were no visible changes on its surface and no BP. The bio-based materials produced small amounts of biogas (25.2, FPLA, and 30.4 L/kg VS, FS), constituting 2.1–2.5% of theoretical methane potential. The foil pieces were still visible and only starting to show damage; some pores had appeared in their structure. The structure of FPLA became more heterogeneous due to water diffusing into the structure. In contrast, the structure of FS became more homogenous although individual cracks and fissures appeared. The color of FS had changed, indicating that it was beginning to biodegrade. The fact that FS and FPLA showed only minor structural damage after a one-year mesophilic degradation indicates that, in these conditions, these materials would persist for an unknown but long amount of time.

Publication date: 16/06/2021

Author: Magdalena Zaborowska

Reference: doi: 10.3390/su13126818

MDPI (sustainability)


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.