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Bioplastics: How biodegradable are they?

Ascolta "Bioplastics: How Biodegradable Are They?" su Spreaker. These materials are the result of research aimed at finding a sustainable alternative to plastics originating from fossil fuel sources » said Francesca Bandini , PhD student at the Doctoral School on the Agro-Food System and first author of the study. Bioplastics, i.e. plastics from renewable resources, can be degraded in the environment thanks to the action of microorganisms and, under certain conditions of time, temperature and humidity » . We evaluated biodegradability based on the weight loss of the bioplastics tested and the production of methane, verified the quality of the final compost through phytotoxicity tests on different seeds and, finally, developed physical-chemical tests to evaluate the thermal and structural characteristics of the materials before and after treatment » . What were the findings? Is bioplastics really biodegradable? « The results of the first analysis, which will require more in-depth validation in pilot plants, seem to confirm the lack of biodegradation of PLA under anaerobic conditions and the presence of still visible traces of PLA in the final compost. Starch-based bioplastics, on the other hand, were found to be totally biodegradable in an anaerobic environment and they do not affect the quality of the final compost, whose pH is actually close to neutrality » . Our next studies will involve new bioplastic products (such as disposable cutlery) in pilot plants and will assess the problem of cross-contamination between traditional plastics of fossil origin and those of biological origin, which are chemically very different materials and intended for processes that should be well separated » .

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