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Sustainable Materials with Improved Biodegradability and Toughness from Blends of Poly(Lactic Acid), Pineapple Stem Starch and Modified Natural Rubber

Poly(lactic acid) (PLA), derived from renewable resources, plays a significant role in the global biodegradable plastic market. However, its widespread adoption faces challenges, including high brittleness, hydrophobicity, limited biodegradability, and higher costs compared to traditional petroleum-based plastics. This study addresses these challenges by incorporating thermoplastic pineapple stem starch (TPSS) and modified natural rubber (MNR) into PLA blends. TPSS, derived from pineapple stem waste, is employed to enhance hydrophilicity, biodegradability, and reduce costs. While the addition of TPSS (10 to 40 wt.%) marginally lowered mechanical properties due to poor interfacial interaction with PLA, the inclusion of MNR (1 to 10 wt.%) in the PLA/20TPSS blend significantly improved stretchability and impact strength, resulting in suitable modulus (1.3 to 1.7 GPa) and mechanical strength (32 to 52 MPa) for diverse applications. The presence of 7 wt.% MNR increased impact strength by 90% compared to neat PLA. The ternary blend exhibited a heterogeneous morphology with enhanced interfacial adhesion, confirmed by microfibrils and a rough texture on the fracture surface. Additionally, a downward shift in PLA’s glass transition temperature (Tg) by 5–6 °C indicated improved compatibility between components. Remarkably, the PLA ternary blends demonstrated superior water resistance and proper biodegradability compared to binary blends. These findings highlight the potential of bio-based plastics, such as PLA blends with TPSS and MNR, to contribute to sustainable economic models and reduce environmental impact for using in plastic packaging applications.

Publication date: 14/01/2024

Author: Wasan Tessanan

Reference: doi: 10.3390/polym16020232

MDPI (polymers)


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.