The term biodegradability does not necessarily mean that the same product is necessarily compost as well. Generally, biodegradable plastics end up going to landfills, where they cannot break down quickly due to the environment. Thus, they do not degrade any faster than standard plastic. If polymer-chomping enzymes are embedded inside biodegradable plastic, it might lead to accelerated decomposition. However, the problem is that such a process involuntarily results in the formation of harmful microplastics, which are showing up in ecosystems worldwide. This is because the enzyme accumulates together and snip plastics’ molecular chains at random places leading to an incomplete breakdown. The situation that entails is worse than the one that will arise if plastics are not degraded at all in the first place.
A new technique has been developed to fight against such a situation. Researchers have discovered that a small amount of polymer-munching enzymes might be capable of making forks and biodegradable plastic packaging completely compostable. This is a massive development for Biodegradable Plastics Market as the research states that with the help of moderate heat, enzyme-laced films of the plastic could disintegrate in standard compost or, in some cases, plain tap water within a few weeks.
Researchers revealed that to arrive at this technique, they added individual enzymes into two biodegradable plastics, counting polylactic acid (commonly used for food packaging). In addition to the inserted enzyme, another ingredient used as a degradable additive was previously developed by the researchers. The added component ensured that enzymes weren’t able to chump together or fell apart. The solitary enzyme took hold of the ends of the plastics’ molecular chains and ate through them. It was resulting in disuniting every chain link and thereby preventing microplastic formation.
Adding enzymes usually makes plastic expensive and tampers with its properties. However, the enzymes used in the present case constitute as little as 0.02 percent of the plastic’s weight. Further, the plastics used are extremely strong and flexible, just like those typically used to make grocery bags.
The major setback of this technology is that it doesn’t work on all plastics because their molecular structures vary at times. Thus, the team is investing its research and resources to overcome this limitation for the coming future. The researchers are optimistic that their advanced technology will come to be a part of every grocery store after some time.
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