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USINGBIODEGRADABLEPOLYMERSTOREDUCEPLASTICPOLLUTION1

Plasticisoneofthemostcommonelementsintodayssociety.Everyhome,
school,building,andfacility,usesplasticinsomeshapeorform.Plastic,definedbythe
OxfordDictionaryasasyntheticmaterialmadefromawiderangeoforganicpolymers
thatcanbemoldedintoshapewhilesoftandthensetintoarigidorslightlyelasticform,
hasgreatlyaffectedmanyaspectsofmodernlife.Whenitcomestoefficiencyand
convenience,plasticisatthetopofthelist.However,withthegrowingamountofplastic
use,comestheincreaseinplasticwaste.TheaverageAmericanthrowsaway
approximately185poundsofplasticperyearaccordingtoEcowatch(2014).Whilethis
numberisquitesignificant,itpalestothefactthatittakesmorethan500to1,000years
forplastictocompletelydegrade.Duetotheextremeamountofdegradingtime,the
worldproducesmoreplasticthanremovingit.Itisthereforeessentialtoreuseplastic
boththroughpersonaluseaswellasrecycling.Whilerecyclingdoesmuchgoodonthe
decreasingplastic,thereareotherwaystoreducetheamountofplasticwaste.Methods
ofreducingplasticarerelativelynew,asplasticisacontemporaryinvention.Plastic
pollution,aseriousproblemthatisfacingthemodernworld,canalsobereduced
throughusingsubstancesthatcandegradeplasticinlesstime,namelybiodegradable
polymers,orBPsforshort.BPscanbeusedtodegradeplasticthroughenvironmental
andnaturaltactics,sortedinthesamewaysasregularplastic,butbotharedependent
ontheplasticbeinglabeledascontainingbiodegradablepolymers.Usingbiodegradable
polymersinplasticisasolutiontodecreasingplasticpollutionwhenallcompanies
wouldberequiredtolabelsuchplasticthatcontainbiodegradablepolymers.

First,whatisabiodegradablepolymer?Toaddressthisquestion,itisfirst
requiredtounderstandthecurrentdefinitionofbiodegradable.TheAmericanSocietyfor
TestingandMaterials,theinternationalorganizationresponsiblefordevelopingand
publishingconsensusoftechnicalstandards,definesbiodegradabilityascapableof
undergoingdecompositionintocarbondioxide,methane,water,inorganiccompounds,
orbiomassinwhichthepredominantmechanismistheenzymaticactionof
microorganismsthatcanbemeasuredbystandardizedtests,inaspecificperiodof
time,reflectingavailabledisposalconditions(adhesivemag.com,Definitionof
Biodegradable,para.1).Therearemanytypesofdegradablesubstances,butforthe
currentpurposeitismostappropriatetostickwithenvironmentallydegradable,thatway
itcanbebrokendownbymeansoftheenvironmentornature.Plasticthatcontains
biodegradablepolymerscanthereforebebrokendownbytheuseofmicroorganisms.
Biodegradablepolymerscanthenbefurthercategorizedinthreemainsections:
starchbased,plantbased,andprodegradantconcentrates.
Starchbasedbiodegradablesubstancescomelargelyfromplantroots,andis
fullybiodegradableandbasedonrenewableresources.Plantbasedpolymerssuchas:
linseedoil,casein,andcastororsoybeanoil,haveallbeenusedasexteriorcoatings
andderiveseveralhighperformancepolymerresinsmakingitusefulasbiodegradable

USINGBIODEGRADABLEPOLYMERSTOREDUCEPLASTICPOLLUTION2

plasticizersforadhesivesandplastics.Prodegradantconcentratesaremetalbased
biodegradablepolymersthatusecatalytictransitionmetalcompoundstobreakdown
plastic(europeanplasticfilms.eu,ControlledDegradationAdditiveMasterbatches,para.
1).

Whilebiodegradablepolymersinplasticseemtohaveonlypositiveeffects,there
areseveralsetbacksinusingthemasanadditiveinplastic.Thelargestcomplicationis
thatitisextremelydifficult,ifnotimpossible,tosortwhichplasticscurrentlycontain
biodegradablepolymers.Thiscanhavedevastatingconsequencesontheenvironment,
asthepolymerswillcontinuetodecomposelongaftertheplastichasdegraded,toxicto
thewildspecies.Sortingplasticsishenceanimportantstepinreducingplasticpollution.

Recyclingplasticgenerallyinrealityismorecomplicatedthantheaverage
Americanrealizes.Themostcommonsystemisusingthenumbersystemtosortoutall
theplastic.Anumber,onethroughseven,isbrandedintotheplastictohelpspecifythe
exacttypeofplasticinordertocorrectlyrecycle.Thisprocessiscrucialtodo,as
recyclingplantscantypicallyonlyrecycleonetype(number)ofplastic.Thismethodis
bothtimeconsumingandeconomicallyexpensive.Mostofthisplasticsortingisdoneby
hand,butastechnologyhasincreasedtherehavebeensomeimprovementstothis
system.Specialrecyclingmethodshavecomeintoplaymorerecently.Oneexampleof
modernsortingofplasticsismagnetism.Thisprocessisdescribedbyanarticleinan
articlebyPHYSORG,byattractingtheironoxideparticles,themagnetartificially
increasesthedensityoftheliquid.Thedensityisthehighestatthebottomofthe
container,andgraduallydecreaseswithitsheight.Whentheplastic,mixedintheiron
oxidesuspension,flowsthroughthetank,itsegregatesintodifferentlayersthatmatch
thedensitiesofthedifferenttypesofplasticflakes.Thesortingprocessconsistsin
recuperatingtheflakesatdifferentheights(para.3).Anotherequalfeatisplasticsorting
equipment,whichsortsplasticbytypeandcolorinasinglestream(magsep.com,
PlasticSortingequipment,para.1).Sortingplasticsthatcontainbiodegradable
polymersismuchthesameasregularsortinginadifferentfacility.Themostcommon
wayofrecyclingplasticswithBPsiscomposting.Standardtestingmethodssetbythe
ASTMdetermineswhetheraplasticcontainsBPandisthensenttoacompostingarea.
Alongwithcompostingsitesarebiowastecollectingsites.Whentheyaresenttoeither
ofthesesights,theycanbeproperlydegradedbymicroorganismstoformcarbon
dioxide,water,biomass,andhumicmatter,allofwhichserveasnutrientsforplantlife.
Withtheadditionofsunlight,plantscangrowandproduceanotherbatchof
biodegradablepolymers,repeatingthecycle.(illumin.usc.edu,Biodegradable
Polymers,para.2).Plasticsusingbiodegradablepolymersmustbesortedcorrectlyto
ensuretheyarerecycledusingtheappropriatemethodsinthementionedareas.

USINGBIODEGRADABLEPOLYMERSTOREDUCEPLASTICPOLLUTION3

Thereisasimplesolutiontoensuringthatbiodegradablepolymersaresorted
correctly,labelallplasticsthatcontainbiodegradablepolymers.Justasregularplastics
arelabeledforrecyclingpurposes,socanplasticthatcontainsbiodegradablepolymers.
Companiesshouldberequiredtolabelallproductsunderthisdefinitiontoensurethat
theplasticsthatcontainingbiodegradablepolymersareproperlyrecycled,andtherefore
increasingtheuseofbiodegradablepolymerstoallplastics,reducingplasticpollution
significantly.

Plasticispartofeverydaylife,andisextremelyimportant.Itisunrealistictotry
andbanallplasticorpushrecyclinganyharderthanithasalreadybeenpushed.
Insteadbyusingbiodegradablepolymers,plasticpollutioncanbedrasticallydeclined.
Biodegradablepolymerscanprovehazardoustotheenvironment,whennotproperly
sortedandrecycled.Itisthereforecrucialthatallplasticthathasbiodegradable
polymersislabeled.UsingBiodegradablepolymersinplasticisasolutiontodecreasing
plasticpollution,whenallcompanieswouldberequiredtolabelsuchplasticthat
containsbiodegradablepolymers.Together,wecanprotecttheenvironmentand
ensurethattheworldisaroundforgenerationstocome.

USINGBIODEGRADABLEPOLYMERSTOREDUCEPLASTICPOLLUTION4

References:
BiodegradablePlasticAdditive.(n.d.).RetrievedNovember10,2014.
http://www.biosphereplastic.com/

BiodegradablePlasticsDevelopmentsandEnvironmentalImpacts.(2002,October1).

RetrievedNovember29,2014,
http://www.europeanplasticfilms.eu/docs/AustralianReportonBiodegradablePlasti
cs.pdf/

MSS.(n.d.).RetrievedNovember10,2014.
http://www.magsep.com/materialsortingequipment/plasticsortingequipment/

PatentUS4451589Decreasingmolecularweightwithfreeradicalprodegradants.
(n.d.).RetrievedNovember10,2014.http://www.google.com/patents/US4451589

Petrie,E.(2007,June1).BiodegradablePolymersinAdhesiveSystems.Retrieved

November29,2014,fromhttp://www.adhesivesmag.com/articles/88268
biodegradablepolymersinadhesivesystems/

Plastic.(2014,October11).RetrievedNovember12,2014.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic

RecyclingPlastics:NewRecyclingTechnologyandBiodegradablePolymer
Development.(2014,November29).RetrievedNovember29,2014,

http://www.google.com/url?q=http://illumin.usc.edu/7/recyclingplasticsnew
recyclingtechnologyandbiodegradablepolymerdevelopment/

Sortingplasticwaste:Amagneticgame.(n.d.).RetrievedNovember10,2014.
http://phys.org/news/201306plasticmagneticgame.html

SubcommitteeD20.96:PublishedstandardsunderD20.96jurisdiction.(n.d.).Retrieved

November10,2014.http://www.astm.org/COMMIT/SUBCOMMIT/D2096.htm

THECOMPLETEBOOKONBIODEGRADABLEPLASTICSANDPOLYMERS
(RECENTDEVELOPMENTS,PROPERTIES,ANALYSIS,MATERIALS&
PROCESSES).(2006).http://books.google.com/books?id=BShAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA21&
lpg=PA21&dq=prodegradant+concentrates&source=bl&ots=bScgWaGtex&sig=b9BN
BTU9z_V5YutJiOn2ykqZI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=s9VgVPjSC9LXoASwg4LQCg&ved=0CE
0Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=prodegradant%20concentrates&f=false

What'sNewinEcoMaterials.(n.d.).RetrievedNovember10,2014.
http://whatisnewinecomaterials.wordpress.com/tag/organics/

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