BIOPLASTICS BIODEGRADATION STUDY
A BIODEGRADABLE FUTURE
Non-biodegradable plastics have a serious impact on the environment, making it crucial to develop new methods for creating biodegradable plastics. This would reduce our reliance on non-renewable resources and decrease plastic waste. Biodegradable plastics also have potential economic benefits, creating new business opportunities and jobs. However, there are challenges to overcome, such as ensuring scalability, affordability and avoiding negative environmental impacts. The importance of developing biodegradable plastics is significant, and it represents a step towards a more sustainable future.
We conducted two studies on biodegradation of bioplastics. Study A was done at three different locales: southern California, coastal Maine, and southeastern coast of Florida to test biodegradation rates for 22 individual samples. Study B was conducted at the Indian River College Massey campus in Fort Pierce with our USDA collaborators to study agricultural film mulch.
Both studies involved testing polyethylene control samples against biodegradable plastics such as polyhydroxyalkanoate and polylactic acid samples, as well as common single-use plastic items. For Study A, we selected six time parameters on a doubling interval and generated three repetitions for every time interval at every site, requiring a total of 2376 samples.
Study A's time intervals were 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 weeks. Study B was conducted in Fort Pierce, which had the highest level of sunlight intensity.
The study was privately funded by American bioplastics manufacturers. 2376 samples were sent to Fort Pierce for processing in the science building on IRSC's main campus. The samples were cleaned, weighed, and photographed over time to document changes in weight and appearance. This process took several months and required IRSC paid student interns to complete.