Oxo-biodegradable plastics are a type of plastic that is designed to break down more quickly than traditional plastic. These plastics are made using a combination of petroleum-based raw materials and metal salts, which makes them capable of oxidatively degrading when exposed to heat and oxygen.
Unlike traditional plastics, which can take centuries to break down and release harmful microplastics into the environment, oxo-biodegradable plastics can break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass in just a few months to a couple of years. This makes them a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional plastics.
Oxo-biodegradable plastics are touted as a sustainable solution to the environmental problem caused by conventional plastics. These biodegradable materials undergo a unique degradation process, which is initiated by oxidative breakdown, followed by biodegradation.
The process of oxo biodegradation is a carefully controlled one that ultimately results in the complete breakdown of the plastic into naturally occurring substances
The initial stage of the degradation process, oxidative degradation, is facilitated by heat and oxygen. The degradant catalyst, usually comprised of salt manganese or iron, initiates the chemical reactions that cause the plastic to become more easily biodegradable.
During this stage, the molecular structure of the plastic begins to break down, and its properties change. Consequently, the oxo-biodegradable plastic becomes more permeable to bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms.
Once the oxidative degradation is complete, the biodegradation stage commences. In this stage, microorganisms break down the now-permeable plastic into naturally occurring substances.
The microorganisms consume the breakdown products and convert them into energy and biomass. Ultimately, this process results in the complete breakdown of the oxo-biodegradable plastic material.
It is important to note that not all biodegradable plastic will degrade in the same way. The degradation process of oxo-biodegradable plastic is unique from that of other biodegradable plastics.
Some biodegradable plastics use biodegradation alone to break down the material, whereas oxo-biodegradable plastics undergo both oxidative and biodegradation processes to achieve complete breakdown.
Oxo-biodegradable materials are tested for their ability to degrade and biodegrade under standards such as ASTM D6954, BS8472, or AFNOR Accord T51-808. These tests ensure that the oxo-biodegradable plastic material can degrade to completion, creating no harmful byproducts.
The use of oxo-biodegradable plastic has several advantages over traditional plastics. The degradation process of oxo-biodegradable plastic is faster than that of most other biodegradable plastics. Additionally, the degradation process of oxo-biodegradable plastic can be initiated by various factors, such as exposure to UV light or heat, making it more versatile.
Oxo-biodegradable vs Oxo degradable plastics
Oxo-biodegradable and Oxo-degradable plastics are two terms that have been interchangeably used, leading to confusion among consumers. However, these types of plastic differ significantly in their impact on the environment.
Oxo-biodegradable plastic is designed to break down into natural substances through biodegradation, triggered by exposure to specific environmental conditions such as heat, light, and weathering.
On the other hand, Oxo-degradable plastic is designed to degrade through the fragmentation process or photo-oxidation, which breaks the plastic down into smaller pieces. The primary difference between these two types of plastics is that Oxo-biodegradable plastics can break down completely into natural elements within a landfill, whereas Oxo-degradable plastics do not fully break down and create microplastics that remain for decades.
The Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association (OPA) provides comprehensive scientific research to back the use of Oxo-biodegradable plastic as a sustainable and safe option.
Benefits of Oxo degradable plastic
Oxo-biodegradable plastics have numerous benefits over conventional plastics. Some of the key benefits of oxo-biodegradable plastic are:
Reduced Landfill Space
Oxo-biodegradable plastic degrades over time, which means it takes up less space in landfills. In the US, 11.8% of municipal solid waste in landfills is made up of plastics, while in the UK, it is 7%. This percentage can be significantly reduced through the use of oxo-biodegradable plastics.
Oxo-biodegradable polymers can be recycled without affecting the quality of the end product. The recycling process deactivates the additive. Recycling plastics means reducing energy consumption by two-thirds and generating only one-third of SO.
Improved Environmental Impact
Oxo-biodegradable plastic bags deteriorate quickly when exposed to the sun’s UV rays, whether they are carelessly discarded on land or adrift in the ocean. Conventional plastics represent a risk to wildlife and marine life, as well as contribute to pollution and littering.
Meets Regulatory Standards
Oxo-biodegradable plastic meets regulatory standards, including ASTM D6954-04 and ISO 15985:2004.
Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions:
When organic waste is dumped in landfills in traditional plastic bags, it creates anaerobic conditions that generate methane and hydrogen sulfide, two highly toxic gases that contribute to climate change.
By using oxo-biodegradable plastic bags, organic waste is rapidly exposed to oxygen, which promotes anaerobic biodegradation and releases CO2 instead of methane. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps to mitigate the negative impact of traditional plastic bags on the environment.
Oxo-biodegradable plastics can be produced in various forms and types, such as films, bags, bottles, and containers, among others, making them versatile and adaptable for various applications.
Non-competitive with foodstuffs
Oxo-biodegradable plastic bags are made from materials that are not derived from foodstuffs like starch, corn, or soybeans. This means that they don’t compete with food production and help to ensure that food resources are not diverted for non-food purposes.
Marine Environment Protection
Oxo-biodegradable materials can help reduce marine pollution by breaking it down into small pieces that are easy for marine organisms to consume, unlike conventional plastic which poses a significant threat to marine life.
In conclusion, oxo-biodegradable plastics are a viable solution to reducing environmental impact and addressing the mounting problems of landfill space, pollution, and littering. With numerous benefits and scientific research to support its environmental and economic advantages, oxo-biodegradable plastics are poised to become a prominent solution to the plastic waste crisis.
Applications of oxo-biodegradable plastics
Oxo-biodegradable plastics are gaining popularity as an environmentally-friendly option in the packaging industry. These plastics are designed to break down into harmless substances, reducing the accumulation of plastic waste in landfills and oceans. In this article, we will discuss the different applications and products of oxo-biodegradable plastics.
Oxo-Degradable Plastic Packaging:
Oxo-biodegradable plastics are used in a wide range of packaging applications. These include:
- Shopping Bags: Oxo-biodegradable bags are durable and can carry a heavy load. They are widely used in supermarkets, shopping centers, and convenience stores.
- Food Packaging: Oxo-biodegradable packaging for food products such as bread, fruits, and vegetables has gained popularity due to its ability to preserve the freshness of the food for a longer duration.
- Cosmetic Packaging: Oxo-biodegradable plastic is also used in the manufacture of cosmetic packaging. These include packaging for shampoo, body wash, and other beauty products.
- Medical Packaging: Oxo-biodegradable plastics are also used in the manufacture of medical packaging such as disposable gloves, syringes, and catheters.
Oxo-biodegradable bags are a popular product of this technology, especially in the retail and grocery industry. They are strong, durable, and can carry a heavy load. They are also lightweight, making them easy to transport and store.
Agricultural Mulch Films:
Oxo-biodegradable plastic mulch films are used in agricultural applications to improve crop yields. These films are used to cover the soil and protect crops from weeds, pests, and diseases. The films are also beneficial in maintaining moisture in the soil and keeping the temperature within suitable ranges.
Certain Plastic Bottles:
Oxo-biodegradable plastic bottles have recently entered the market as a sustainable option for packaging beverages. These bottles can be recycled or leave behind less waste if not recycled.
Are Oxo-biodegradable plastics sustainable?
Biodegradable plastics, including oxo-biodegradable plastic, have been touted as a solution to the growing problem of plastic pollution. However, there are several concerns surrounding the use of these materials.
One major issue is cost. Bio-based plastics, which are often used to create biodegradable plastics, are more expensive than traditional plastics made from petroleum. This cost difference is due to the additional resources needed to produce bio-based plastics, such as land, water, and energy.
Additionally, the production process for biodegradable plastics can be more complex and time-consuming than for traditional plastics, further driving up the cost.
Another pressing concern is technical challenges. Large-scale production of biodegradable plastics faces numerous challenges, including low reactor space-time yields and significant variations in feedstock composition and structure. These issues make it difficult to consistently produce high-quality biodegradable plastics at a large scale.
A final issue is the human element. The tendency to avoid using or buying products from external origins, known as “not invented here” (NIH), can make it difficult for biodegradable plastics to gain widespread acceptance. This is because consumers may be hesitant to try new materials, especially if they are more expensive or less familiar than traditional plastics.
In summary, while biodegradable plastics have the potential to address plastic pollution, several hurdles must be overcome for them to become viable solutions. These include cost, technical challenges, and consumer reluctance to adopt new materials. As such, researchers, manufacturers, and policymakers need to continue to explore and address these challenges to advance the use of biodegradable plastics.