Is acrylic plastic biodegradable? (7 properties of acrylic plastic) 

In this article, the biodegradability of acrylic plastic will be scrutinised. Other covered topics will be: 

  • What is acrylic plastic?
  • What are the types of plastic?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Is acrylic plastic biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Is acrylic plastic biodegradable?

Acrylic plastic is non-biodegradable because it is derived from natural gas and is synthesised from petroleum products in labs. 

Biodegradability is the process of breakdown down complex waste into simple waste by the action of microbes so that the simple waste may become part of nature again. 

Non-biodegradable products cause a lot of harm to the planet and people including global warming, deforestation, and numerous health complications.

What is acrylic plastic? (7 properties of acrylic plastic) 

Acrylic plastic is a type of plastic which is a petroleum-based thermoplastic that is derived from natural gas. It is also termed polyacrylate. 

Acrylic plastic may have the following properties:

  • Mechanical strength
  • Dimensional stability
  • Ease of processing
  • Transparency
  • Clarity
  • Weathering properties
  • Durability

Owing to these qualities, acrylic plastic may be used for a wide range of applications. These might include:

  • Signboards
  • Brochures
  • Display cases
  • Light panels
  • LED panels
  • POP displays
  • Skylights
  • Architectural glazing 

What is plastic?

In simple terms, plastic is a polymer which is made from repeating units (monomers) and these monomers are linked with chemical bonds. 

Plastic is found everywhere these days. From the packaging material to plastic bottles to furniture items, and decoration material. Chances are that plastic is present in the majority of the stuff that you own. 

In order to get a better grasp of what plastic is, it is essential to know the science of polymers. That is because plastics are just another type of polymer.  

The word polymer is supposed to be derived from the Greek language which means many parts. Polymers are made up of small repeating units. These small repeating units are termed monomers. Monomers are held together by chemical bonds.

Polymers can be classified into two groups. These may be:

  • Natural polymers 
  • Synthetic polymers

As the names suggest, natural polymers are found in nature. There is no need to synthesise them in any way. Whereas, synthetic polymers, on the other hand, are synthesised in the lab.

Natural polymers are those polymers found in nature. It can be said that nature is the scientist that made these polymers and quite a magnificent one. Examples of these polymers can be: 

  • Wool
  • Carbohydrates
  • DNA
  • Protein
  • Cellulose
  • Silk
  • Chiton

These natural polymers adhere to nature’s ways and thus pose no great threats to nature and the environment. However, there are some factors that may change this bias. 

As per synthetic polymers, these polymers are synthesised in the lab. These synthetic polymers are created by man and the rule of thumb is that most of them do not really adhere to nature’s ways. Examples of these polymers may be: 

  • Teflon
  • Dyneema
  • Nylon
  • PVC
  • Polyethylene
  • Polyester
  • Epoxy

What are the types of plastic?  

Generally, plastics are categorised into 7 classes or types. These may be:

  • PET
  • HDPE
  • PVC
  • LDPE
  • PP
  • Polystyrene 
  • Contemporary plastics 

As it could be guessed that these classes of plastics have several distinct properties and therefore, related functions based on their distinct properties and characteristics. 

The first category of plastics is called PET which expands to polyethylene terephthalate. This type of plastic is usually lucid in colour and is found in disposable beverages, food containers and bottles. Since our subject is plastic bottles, this is the type of plastic we will be getting into more detail about. 

The second category of plastic is called HDPE which expands into high-density polyethylene. It is mostly opaque in appearance and is used widely in juice bottles, detergents, and toiletries containers. This type is considered safe for humans in terms of exposure but it is unsafe for the environment. 

The third category is called PVC which expands to Polyvinyl Chloride. This type of plastic is mostly used in applications such as food wraps, cooking oil bottles and plumbing pipes. PVC contains BPA and phthalates. 

These chemicals are known to cause harm to humans by disrupting the hormonal patterns while also being carcinogenic in nature. The constituents of PVC are also quite harmful to the environment as they may leach into the ground and cause toxicity and pollution. 

The fourth category of plastic is called LDPE which can be expanded into low-density polyethylene. The common applications of this type of plastic are food warps, grocery bags et cetera. This is relatively safer in the context of HDPE to human health. 

Next in line, we have polypropylene. This type of plastic is termed microwave safe because of its heat resistance properties. Therefore, it is most commonly used in kitchenware. However, even though it is heat resistant. Its use must be limited or else there could be medical complications. 

The sixth type of plastic is polystyrene which is also known as styrofoam. This type of plastic is renowned for packaging materials and disposable containers. However, it is deemed very unsafe to both humans and the environment and its use must be avoided to the best. 

The last category of plastic is called new plastic or contemporary plastic. It included all the new plastics that are synthesised in the market. As it may be guessed, acrylic plastic belongs to the class of new plastics.

It may include plastics that contain harmful chemicals like BPA and may also include bioplastics that are both degradable and relatively safer for the environment. 

What is biodegradability?

Do you remember the last time you disposed of something in your trash bin? Have you ever wondered what happens after that? What is the fate of trash that ends up in your trash cans and then is taken away by waste management authorities? 

Have you ever wondered how much waste is produced on a global scale and what measures are taken to manage the waste? Or perhaps you may have rummaged mentally about how waste was treated before there was any science or machinery.

The answer to all such queries and curiosities will be found in this section. The understanding of biodegradability is really essential to know what is the fate of the trash that ends up in our trash cans. 

Biodegradability can be explained as a natural process through which microbes break down complex waste into simpler substances. This conversion is also facilitated by external conditions such as temperature or sunlight. 

The main driver of biodegradation is microbes. These microbes include bacteria, algae, fungi, protozoa, yeast, and decomposers. They break down the structures of complex waste so that the simple waste may become part of nature again. 

Biodegradability is nature’s way of ensuring that there is no waste and that the waste produced is taken back into the system. It is because mother nature is aware that if there is waste, there will be complications and obstructions. 

To understand this, the article invited you to an analogy. Imagine that for some reason you are unable to dispose of waste in your home or office. The situation may be manageable for some days but not very long.

Now, imagine that you can not dispose of the waste for several hundred years. The first thought that you will get is that your home or office will become unlivable. The same is the case for biodegradability and the earth. 

Biodegradability is the earth’s dustbin and earth is our home. If there is no biodegradability, there is no waste disposal. This will, eventually, steal our home’ capacity to sustain life. Results? Mass extinction and environmental degradations.

Biodegradability is the earth’s natural way to eliminate waste by making sure that it gets back to the system. However, there has been corruption in this naturality as well. 

Regarding biodegradability, there is a general understanding that natural materials and natural waste are biodegradable. This is because it coincides with the code of nature. The microbes have no difficulty in breaking down the structures of this type of waste. 

On the other hand, we have the type of waste which can not be degraded by the action of microbes. This type of waste is mostly considered man-made. That is because microbes cannot degrade the inner structures of synthetic materials and as a result, this type of waste may persist for hundreds of years. 

Is acrylic plastic biodegradable?

For a substance to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural materials. These natural materials can be plant-based or animal-based products. Examples of biodegradable material may be natural fabrics, fruits, vegetables et cetera.

Acrylic plastic is derived from natural gas and is synthesised from petroleum products in labs. Therefore, acrylic plastic can not be regarded as biodegradable.

It may remain in the environment for hundreds of years and may also cause harm to people and the environment. 

Conclusion

Acrylic plastic is non-biodegradable because it is derived from natural gas and is synthesised from petroleum products in labs. 

Biodegradability is the process of breakdown of complex waste into simple waste by the action of microbes so that the simple waste may become part of nature again. 

Non-biodegradable products cause a lot of harm to the planet and people including global warming, deforestation, and numerous health complications. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is acrylic plastic biodegradable?

Does acrylic plastic contain BPA?

No, it does not contain Bisphenol-A, which is a known hormone disruptor. 

How long does acrylic plastic take to degrade?

It may degrade in about 200 years. Therefore, it is regarded as non-biodegradable. 

References

  • Hirose, M., Zhou, J., & Nagai, K. (2000). The structure and properties of acrylic-polyurethane hybrid emulsions. Progress in Organic Coatings, 38(1), 27-34.
  • Burkhardt, W. C. (1976). Acrylic plastic glazing: properties, characteristics, and engineering data. ASHRAE Trans.;(United States), 82.
  • Erni-Cassola, G., Zadjelovic, V., Gibson, M. I., & Christie-Oleza, J. A. (2019). Distribution of plastic polymer types in the marine environment; A meta-analysis. Journal of hazardous materials, 369, 691-698.
  • Thompson, R. C., Swan, S. H., Moore, C. J., & Vom Saal, F. S. (2009). Our plastic age. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 1973-1976.
  • Thompson, R. C., Olsen, Y., Mitchell, R. P., Davis, A., Rowland, S. J., John, A. W., … & Russell, A. E. (2004). Lost at sea: where is all the plastic? Science, 304(5672), 838-838.
  • Gaytán, I., Burelo, M., & Loza-Tavera, H. (2021). Current status on the biodegradability of acrylic polymers: microorganisms, enzymes and metabolic pathways involved. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 105(3), 991-1006.

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Comment