Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Bioplastic


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


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: Enzyme, Catalysis, Starch, Plastic, Biodegradation, Recyclable materials, Bioplastic, 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: Climate change, Biodegradation, Methane, Greenhouse gas, Bioplastic, Landfill, Biodegradable plastic, Biodegradable waste management


We evaluated the effects of storage and handling conditions on the antimicrobial activity of biodegradable composite films (polylactic acid and sugar beet pulp) coated with allyl isothiocyanate (AIT). Polylactic acid and chitosan were incorporated with AIT and used to coat one side of the film. The films were subjected to different storage conditions (storage time, storage temperature, and packed or unpacked) and handling conditions (washing, abrasion, and air blowing), and the antimicrobial activity of the films against Salmonella Stanley in tryptic soy broth was determined. The films (8.16 μl of AIT per cm(2) of surface area) significantly (P < 0.05) inhibited the growth of Salmonella during 24 h of incubation at 22°C, while the populations of Salmonella in controls increased from ca. 4 to over 8 log CFU/ml, indicating a minimum inactivation of 4 log CFU/ml on films in comparison to the growth on controls. Statistical analyses indicated that storage time, storage temperature, and surface abrasion affected the antimicrobial activity of the films significantly (P < 0.05). However, the differences in microbial reduction between those conditions were less than 0.5 log cycle. The results suggest that the films' antimicrobial properties are stable under practical storage and handling conditions and that these antimicrobial films have potential applications in food packaging.

Concepts: PH, Lactic acid, Sugar, Antimicrobial, Sugar beet, Bioplastic, Thermoplastic, Polylactic acid


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


To assess the properties of 3D biodegradable scaffolds fabricated from novel star-shaped poly(D,L-lactide) (SSL) materials for bone tissue regeneration.

Concepts: Bone, Cellular differentiation, Regeneration, Osseous tissue, Bioplastic


Microparticles made from naturally occurring materials or biodegradable plastics such as poly(3-hydroxy butyrate)-co-(3-hydroxy valerate), PHBV, are being evaluated as alternatives to microplastics in personal care product applications but limited data is available on their ultimate biodegradability (mineralization) in down the drain environmental compartments. An OECD 301B Ready Biodegradation Test was used to quantify ultimate biodegradability of microparticles made of PHBV foam, jojoba wax, beeswax, rice bran wax, stearyl stearate, blueberry seeds and walnut shells. PHBV polymer was ready biodegradable reaching 65.4 ± 4.1% evolved CO2 in 5 d and 90.5 ± 3.1% evolved CO2 in 80 d. PHBV foam microparticles (125-500 μm) were mineralized extensively with >66% CO2 evolution in 28 d and >82% CO2 evolution in 80 d. PHBV foam microparticles were mineralized at a similar rate and extent as microparticles made of jojoba wax, beeswax, rice bran wax, and stearyl stearate which reached 84.8  ± 4.8, 84.9  ± 2.2, 82.7  ± 4.7, and 86.4 ± 3.2% CO2 evolution respectively in 80 d. Blueberry seeds and walnut shells mineralized more slowly only reaching 39.3  ± 6.9 and 5.1 ± 2.8% CO2 evolution in 80 d respectively.

Concepts: Wax, Biodegradation, Bioplastic, Biodegradable plastic, Biodegradability prediction, Waxes


Many crops are ill-protected against insect pests during storage. To protect cereal grains from herbivores during storage, pesticides are often applied. While pesticides have an undoubtable functionality, increasing concerns are arising about their application. In the present study, we investigated a bioinspired cyanogenic grain coating with amygdalin as cyanogenic precursor mimicking the feeding-triggered release of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) found for example in bitter almonds. The multilayer coating consisted of biodegradable polylactic acid with individual layers containing amygdalin or β-glucosidase which is capable of degrading amygdalin to HCN. This reaction occurred only when the layers were ruptured, e.g., by a herbivore attack. Upon feeding coated cyanogenic wheat grains to Tenebrio molitor (mealworm beetle), Rhizopertha dominica (lesser grain borer), and Plodia interpunctella (Indianmeal moth), their reproduction as well as consumption rate were significantly reduced, whereas germination ability increased compared to noncoated grains. In field experiments, we observed an initial growth delay compared to uncoated grains which became negligible at later growth stages. The here shown strategy to artificially apply a naturally occurring defense mechanisms could be expanded to other crops than wheat and has the potential to replace certain pesticides with the benefit of complete biodegradability and increased safety during storage.

Concepts: Cyanide, Wheat, Cereal, Herbivore, Pest insects, Bioplastic, Almond, Hydrogen cyanide


Biodegradable and renewable polymers, such as polylactic acid, are benign alternatives for petrochemical-based plastics. Current production of polylactic acid via its key building block lactide, the cyclic dimer of lactic acid, is inefficient in terms of energy, time, and feedstock use. We present a direct zeolite-based catalytic process, which converts lactic acid into lactide. The shape-selective properties of zeolites are essential to attain record lactide yields, outperforming those of the current multistep process by avoiding both racemization and side-product formation. The highly productive process is strengthened by facile recovery and practical reactivation of the catalyst, which remains structurally fit during at least six consecutive reactions, and by the ease of solvent and side-product recycling.

Concepts: Metabolism, Chemical reaction, Hydrogen, Adsorption, Lactic acid, Bioplastic, Polylactic acid, Resin identification code


The concept of materials coming from nature with environmental advantages of being biodegradable and/or biobased (often referred to as bioplastics) is very attractive to the industry and to the consumers. Bioplastics already play an important role in the fields of packaging, agriculture, gastronomy, consumer electronics and automotive, but still they have a very low share in the total production of plastics (currently about 1% of the about 300 million tonnes of plastic produced annually). Biodegradable plastics are often perceived as the possible solution for the waste problem, but biodegradability is just an additional feature of the material to be exploited at the end of its life in specific terms, in the specific disposal environment and in a specific time, which is often forgotten. They should be used as a favoured choice for the applications that demand a cheap way to dispose of the item after it has fulfilled its job (e.g. for food packaging, agriculture or medical products). The mini-review presents the opportunities and future challenges of biodegradable plastics, regarding processing, properties and waste management options.

Concepts: Time, Plastic, Anaerobic digestion, Biodegradation, Bioplastic, Consumer protection, Biodegradable plastic, Biodegradable waste management