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Concept: Biodegradation


Environmentally Degradable Parameter ((Ed)K) is of importance in the describing of biodegradability of environmentally biodegradable polymers (BDPs). In this study, a concept (Ed)K was introduced. A test procedure of using the ISO 14852 method and detecting the evolved carbon dioxide as an analytical parameter was developed, and the calculated (Ed)K was used as an indicator for the ultimate biodegradability of materials. Starch and polyethylene used as reference materials were defined as the (Ed)K values of 100 and 0, respectively. Natural soil samples were inoculated into bioreactors, followed by determining the rates of biodegradation of the reference materials and 15 commercial BDPs over a 2-week test period. Finally, a formula was deduced to calculate the value of (Ed)K for each material. The (Ed)K values of the tested materials have a positive correlation to their biodegradation rates in the simulated soil environment, and they indicated the relative biodegradation rate of each material among all the tested materials. Therefore, the (Ed)K was shown to be a reliable indicator for quantitatively evaluating the potential biodegradability of BDPs in the natural environment.

Concepts: Environmentalism, Carbon dioxide, Environment, Biodegradation, Bioplastic, Bioremediation, Environmental remediation, Natural environment


Cultures from the unicellular green alga Scenedesmus obliquus biodegrade the toxic p-cresol (4-methylphenol) and use it as alternative carbon/energy source. The biodegradation procedure of p-cresol seems to be a two-step process. HPLC analyses indicate that the split of the methyl group (first step) that is possibly converted to methanol (increased methanol concentration in the growth medium), leading, according to our previous work, to changes in the molecular structure and function of the photosynthetic apparatus and therefore to microalgal biomass increase. The second step is the fission of the intermediately produced phenol. A higher p-cresol concentration results in a higher p-cresol biodegradation rate and a lower total p-cresol biodegradability. The first biodegradation step seems to be the most decisive for the effectiveness of the process, because methanol offers energy for the further biodegradation reactions. The absence of LHCII from the Scenedesmus mutant wt-lhc stopped the methanol effect and significantly reduced the p-cresol biodegradation (only 9%). The present contribution deals with an energy distribution between microalgal growth and p-cresol biodegradation, activated by p-cresol concentration. The simultaneous biomass increase with the detoxification of a toxic phenolic compound (p-cresol) could be a significant biotechnological aspect for further applications.

Concepts: Biodegradability prediction, Bacteria, Biodegradation, Microbial biodegradation, Bioremediation, Phenols, Photosynthesis


The potential of using anaerobic digestion for the treatment of poultry blood has been evaluated in batch assays at the laboratory scale and in a mesophilic semi-continuous reactor. The biodegradability test performed on residual poultry blood was carried out in spite of high inhibitory levels of acid intermediaries. The use of activated carbon as a way to prevent inhibitory conditions demonstrated the feasibility of attaining anaerobic digestion under extreme ammonium and acid conditions. Batch assays with higher carbon content presented higher methane production rates, although the difference in the final cumulative biogas production was not as sharp. The digestion of residual blood was also studied under semi-continuous operation using granular and powdered activated carbon. The average specific methane production was 216 ± 12 mL CH4/g VS. This result was obtained in spite of a strong volatile fatty acid (VFA) accumulation, reaching values around 6 g/L, along with high ammonium concentrations (in the range of 6-8 g/L). The use of powdered activated carbon resulted in a better assimilation of C3-C5 acid forms, indicating that an enhancement in syntrophic metabolism may have taken place. Thermal analysis and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were applied as analytical tools for measuring the presence of organic material in the final digestate and evidencing modifications on the carbon surface. The addition of activated carbon for the digestion of residual blood highly improved the digestion process. The adsorption capacity of ammonium, the protection this carrier may offer by limiting mass transfer of toxic compounds, and its capacity to act as a conductive material may explain the successful digestion of residual blood as the sole substrate.

Concepts: Protein, Biodegradation, Scanning electron microscope, Methane, Carbon dioxide, Activated carbon, Biogas, Anaerobic digestion


The release of pharmaceuticals in the environment, as parent compounds, metabolites and transformation products, and the consequent risks posed to living organisms due to the unintended exposure of the latter to these chemicals are nowadays of increasing scientific concern. The development of advanced oxidation processes able to degrade these substances is in the core of the current research objectives, the main target being the removal of these compounds from wastewaters. Often the focus is on the removal of the parent compound only. However, these processes can form transformation products. Knowledge on the risk related to such transformation products is scarce. Among others, knowledge on their toxic effects and their biodegradability is of importance not only when they are present in the environment but also for the assessment of the advanced oxidation processes' efficiency applied for their degradation. Photolytic (UV irradiation) and photocatalytic treatment (UV irradiation in the presence of TiO(2)) of the fluoroquinolone ofloxacin were applied, and the biodegradability of the formed products was investigated using the Closed Bottle test (OECD 301 D). Various transformation products, formed both during the photo(cata)lytic treatment and the Closed Bottle test, were identified using chromatographic analysis with an ultra high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) system. The transformation products formed during the phototreatments were found to be non-readily biodegradable as the biodegradation percentages were close to zero. The persistence of the various photo(cata)lytic transformation products during the Closed Bottle test may be attributed to the fluorine present in all the transformation products formed. The transformation products identified suggest that two transformation routes were present: decarboxylation and opening of the piperazinyl ring. Interestingly, it was observed that in the presence of a readily biodegradable carbon source (sodium acetate), the biodegradation percentage increased drastically for some of the photolytically treated samples. This was not the case for the photocatalytically treated samples, in which also mineralization of the parent compound was achieved faster. Further research is needed, however, in order to increase the understanding of the conditions that may lead to less potent and persistent substances during the application of such engineered or natural processes.

Concepts: Microbial biodegradation, Biodegradability prediction, Chromatography, Biodegradation, Bioremediation, Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry


The evolution of microstructure and mechanical properties of almost fully amorphous Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) and crystalline Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) alloys during immersion in Hank’s balanced salt solution (HBSS), as well as their cytocompatibility, are investigated in order to assess the feasibility of both materials as biodegradable implants. Though the crystalline Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) sample shows lower wettability and more positive corrosion potential, this sample degrades much faster upon incubation in HBSS as a consequence of the formation of micro-galvanic couples between the nobler Pd-rich dendrites and the surrounding phases. After 22-h immersion, the concentration of Mg ions in the HBSS medium containing the Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) sample is six times larger than for Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) . Due to the Zn enrichment and the incipient porosity, the mechanical properties of the Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) sample improve within the first stages of biodegradation (i.e., hardness increases while the Young’s modulus decreases, thus rendering an enhanced wear resistance). Cytocompatibility studies reveal that neither Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) nor Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) are cytotoxic, although preosteoblast cell adhesion is to some extent precluded, particularly onto the surface of Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) , because of the relatively high hydrophobicity. Because of their outstanding properties and their time-evolution, the use of the Pd-free alloy in temporary implants such as screws, stents, and sutures is envisioned. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A, 2013.

Concepts: Bioremediation, Zinc, Microbial biodegradation, Biodegradability prediction, Young's modulus, Biodegradation, Solid, Materials science


We developed a rapid and simple method for evaluating the degradation of solid biodegradable plastics (BPs). Dye-containing BP films were used as substrates and the release of dye caused by the degradation of BPs was confirmed by a color change in the enzyme solution after a reaction time of 24 h.

Concepts: Recyclable materials, Bioplastic, Biodegradation, Enzyme, Catalysis, Starch, Plastic, Biodegradable plastic


Society is fundamentally ambivalent to the use of plastics. On the one hand, plastics are uniquely flexible materials that have seen them occupy a huge range of functions, from simple packing materials to complex engineering components. On the other, their durability has raised concerns about their end-of-life disposal. When that disposal route is landfill, their invulnerability to microbial decomposition, combined with relatively low density and high bulk, means that plastics will occupy increasing amounts of landfill space in a world where available suitable landfill sites is shrinking. The search for biodegradable plastics and their introduction to the marketplace would appear to be a suitable amelioration strategy for such a problem. And yet the uptake of biodegradable plastics has been slow. The term biodegradable itself has entered public controversy, with accidental and intended misuse of the term; the intended misuse has led to accusations and instances of “greenwashing”. For this and other reasons standards for biodegradability and compostability testing of plastics have been sought. An environmental dilemma with more far-reaching implications is climate change. The need for rapid and deep greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cuts is one of the drivers for the resurgence of industrial biotechnology generally, and the search for bio-based plastics more specifically. Bio-based has come to mean plastics based on renewable resources, but this need not necessarily imply biodegradability. If the primary purpose is GHG emissions savings, then once again plastics durability can be a virtue, if the end-of-life solution can be energy recovery during incineration or recycling. The pattern of production is shifting from the true biodegradable plastics to the bio-based plastics, and that trend is likely to persist into the future. This paper looks at aspects of the science of biodegradable and bio-based plastics from the perspective of policy advisers and makers. It is often said that the bioplastics suffer from a lack of a favourable policy regime when compared to the wide-ranging set of policy instruments that are available on both the supply and demand side of biofuels production. Some possible policy measures are discussed.

Concepts: Methane, Climate change, Biodegradable waste management, Landfill, Biodegradation, Bioplastic, Greenhouse gas, Biodegradable plastic


To improve the biodegradation of biodegradable plastic (BP) mulch films, 1227 fungal strains were isolated from plant surface (phylloplane) and evaluated for BP-degrading ability. Among them, B47-9 a strain isolated from the leaf surface of barley showed the strongest ability to degrade poly-(butylene succinate-co-butylene adipate) (PBSA) and poly-(butylene succinate) (PBS) films. The strain grew on the surface of soil-mounted BP films, produced breaks along the direction of hyphal growth indicated that it secreted a BP-degrading enzyme, and has directly contributing to accelerating the degradation of film. Treatment with the culture filtrate decomposed 91.2 wt%, 23.7 wt%, and 14.6 wt% of PBSA, PBS, and commercially available BP polymer blended mulch film, respectively, on unsterlized soil within 6 days. The PCR-DGGE analysis of the transition of soil microbial community during film degradation revealed that the process was accompanied with drastic changes in the population of soil fungi and Acantamoeba spp., as well as the growth of inoculated strain B47-9. It has a potential for application in the development of an effective method for accelerating degradation of used plastics under actual field conditions.

Concepts: Bioplastic, Microbiology, Plant, Biodegradation, Hypha, Plastic, Biodegradable plastic, Fungus


The biodegradability of nitrochlorinated (diuron and atrazine) and chlorophenoxy herbicides (2,4-D and MCPA) has been studied through several bioassays using different testing times and biomass/substrate ratios. A fast biodegradability test using unacclimated activated sludge yielded no biodegradation of the herbicides in 24 h. The inherent biodegradability test gave degradation percentages of around 20-30 % for the nitrochlorinated herbicides and almost complete removal of the chlorophenoxy compounds. Long-term biodegradability assays were performed using sequencing batch reactor (SBR) and sequencing batch membrane bioreactor (SB-MBR). Fixed concentrations of each herbicide below the corresponding EC50 value for activated sludge were used (30 mg L(-1) for diuron and atrazine and 50 mg L(-1) for 2,4-D and MCPA). No signs of herbicide degradation appeared before 35 days in the case of diuron and atrazine and 21 days for 2,4-D, whereas MCPA was partially degraded since the early stages. Around 25-36 % degradation of the nitrochlorinated herbicides and 53-77 % of the chlorophenoxy ones was achieved after 180 and 135 days, respectively, in SBR, whereas complete disappearance of 2,4-D was reached after 80 days in SB-MBR.

Concepts: Concentration, Roundup, Land degradation, Batch reactor, Herbicides, Atrazine, Herbicide, Biodegradation


The European REACH regulation requires information on ready biodegradation, which is a screening test to assess the biodegradability of chemicals. At the same time REACH encourages the use of alternatives to animal testing which includes predictions from QSAR models. The aim of this study was to build QSAR models to predict ready biodegradation of chemicals by using different modelling methods and types of molecular descriptors. Particular attention was given to data screening and validation procedures in order to build predictive models. Experimental values of 1055 chemicals were collected from the webpage of the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation of Japan (NITE): 837 and 218 molecules were used for calibration and testing purposes, respectively. In addition, models were further evaluated using an external validation set consisting of 670 molecules. Classification models were produced in order to discriminate biodegradable and non-biodegradable chemicals by means of different mathematical methods: k Nearest Neighbours, Partial Least Squares Discriminant Analysis and Support Vector Machines, as well as their consensus models. The proposed models and the derived consensus analysis demonstrated good classification performances with respect to already published QSAR models on biodegradation. Relationships between the molecular descriptors selected in each QSAR model and biodegradability were evaluated.

Concepts: Biodegradability prediction, Regression analysis, Chemistry, Molecule, Support vector machine, Futurology, Biodegradation, Prediction