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Biodegradable Plastics Tested Under Anaerobic Digestion Conditions

While biomass boiler heating already has the green credentials of giving homes and businesses a sustainable energy source, researchers are now looking into ways in which biodegradable plastics react to the anaerobic digestion process.

The problem of plastic has been given a big push in research as more and more comes to light about its effect on our environment and especially our water systems and supplies, so the idea that a plastic bottle could be thrown into a biomass boiler and generate power for the home is a particular attractive one.

Biodegradable plastics are under development all the time, but so far have proved to not deliver on the strength, flexibility and toughness of traditional plastics, and while combinations of various bio plastics have better qualities, their ‘environmental fate’ has been less well determined.

However, now, according to Azocleantech, a number of researchers have undertaken testing of a range of such plastics under various conditions, both managed and unmanaged, such as composting and aerobic digestion, as well as in the natural environment on both land and water, to see the effects, with the results published in an American Chemical Society journal.

While polylactic acid is one the best performing and selling biodegradable plastics, it needs a high temperature to break it down. This means its no good for home composting, in such a use as described. However, the results of this study found that a blend of polylactic acid and polycaprolactone could degrade completely under anaerobic digestion levels able to be met in the average household.

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