Is agar biodegradable? (5 properties) 

This section will highlight the biodegradability status of agar. Other aspects covered would include:

  • What is agar?
  • What are the applications of agar?
  • What is biodegradation?
  • Is agar biodegradable?
  • What is agar plasticity and how does it help in alleviating the environmental problems?
  • FAQs

Is agar biodegradable?

Agar is a biopolymer which is extracted from red algae and hence is biodegradable. For a product to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural sources. 

Since agar is a biopolymer, it can also be said that agar is a sustainable raw material which can be employed in green initiatives such as green packaging also known as agar plasticity. 

Agar may be used in food applications and microbiology studies. More than 90% of agar use is for food applications such as use as softening, shortening, and suspending agents. 

How readily can agar degrade?

Biodegradability is the breakdown of waste by the action of microbes. A substance is regarded as biodegradable if it is broken down by the microbes in less than 180 days. Another factor that determines the biodegradability of any material such as agar is what is the environmental impact of it. 

After covering the peripheral aspects of agar biodegradation, let us now target the main question which is whether agar is biodegradable or not.

It has been seen that for a product to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural sources. We have also discussed that this is exactly the case with agar. 

Agar is extracted from natural sources that include red algae or seaweed. Therefore, it can be concluded that agar is biodegradable. 

Now, the next question that may come to your mind is how much time is required for agar to degrade. The answer may vary based on external conditions. In general, it may take from a few days to a few weeks. 

More than being biodegradable, it is also claimed that agar may also be used in the packaging industry and thus is capable of replacing plastics in the packaging industry

Therefore, it can also be concluded that agar is a sustainable raw material which can be employed in green initiatives. 

Is agar sustainable?

Is agar natural?

Agar can be explained as a gelatinous substance which is mainly sourced from seaweeds. In simple words, it is a jelly-like substance which is made from polysaccharides. These polysaccharides source from species of red algae. 

The history of agar dates back to the 17th century. It was that time when jelly-like properties of agar were discovered somewhere in the 17th century. This led to the rapid commercialization and industrialization that primarily began at the start of the 18th century. 

Agar is sourced from seaweed. This means that the production of agar is mainly from natural sources. This is assertive enough to imply that there won’t be significant impacts of agar on the environment. 

As regards the chemical composition of agar, it is 70% agarose and 30% agaropectin. Agarose is also a polysaccharide extracted from seaweed made up of agarobiose. 

Is agar renewable?

If something is renewable, it implies that its resources would not end, ever. The parameter of something being renewable or not has a lot to do with the sustainable aspect of it. 

For example, let us take the examples of fossil fuels. These are non-renewable and hence once they run out, they are likely to impact us and the environment. However, let us take the example of wind energy. It is renewable and there is absolutely no environmental impact of it. 

As regards agar, it is a bio-renewable material as it is sourced from various types of marine algae. Algae being renewable is another testimonial to it being sustainable. 

Can agar replace plastics?

The statement may sound absurd but it is actually true. We have already seen that in a number of recent studies, plastic material has been made by agar which has the ability to substitute conventional plastic that may hookup in the environment for 500-1000 years. 

It is estimated that in the near future, we will see agar packaging in the form of shopping bags and plastic packaging materials. Much work is already underway which will be elucidated in the following headings. 

What is agar plasticity and how does it contribute to environmental alleviation?

It is stanced that with the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in the use of packaging material. When it comes to packaging material, there are two candidates. One is cardboard and the other is plastic.

Our concern is the plastic packaging because this packaging is not considered eco-friendly or sustainable mainly because of two reasons: 

  • It is made from fossil fuel derivatives
  • It is not biodegradable and compostable 

Therefore, with the growing environmental movement, there is a rising trend and proclivity toward the eco-friendly. The same is seen in the case of packaging material as well. 

Recently, a new type of packaging material has been introduced that is called agar plasticity. This is made from agar sourced from red seaweed (algae). Not only is this biodegradable but also completely eco-friendly. 

It was demonstrated that this agar plasticity can completely dissolve in boiling water and leaves no residue behind. Therefore, it is stanced that agar plasticity is a green option that can potentially replace plastic packaging for the good of the globe. 

This agar plastic is bound to degrade in 2-4 months. 2 months in the case of summer whereas 4 months in the case of cooler temperatures. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that agar is a biopolymer which is extracted from red algae and hence is biodegradable. 

It can also be concluded that agar is a sustainable raw material which can be employed in green initiatives such as green packaging. 

Recently, a new type of packaging material has been introduced that is called agar plasticity. This is made from agar sourced from red seaweed (algae). Not only is this biodegradable but also completely eco-friendly. 

Other than that, agar may be used in food applications and microbiology studies. More than 90% of agar use is for food applications such as use as softening, shortening, and suspending agents. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is agar biodegradable?

What is agar made of?

As regards the chemical composition of agar, it is 70% agarose and 30% agaropectin. Agarose is also a polysaccharide extracted from seaweed made up of agarobiose. 

Is agar a polymer?

Yes, agar is a biopolymer which is biodegradable. It is extracted from red algae. 

References

  • Mostafavi, F. S., & Zaeim, D. (2020). Agar-based edible films for food packaging applications-A review. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 159, 1165-1176. 
  • Armisen, R., & Gaiatas, F. (2009). Agar. In Handbook of hydrocolloids (pp. 82-107). Woodhead Publishing.
  • Araki, C. (1956). Structure of the agarose constituent of agar-agar. Bulletin of the Chemical Society of Japan, 29(4), 543-544.
  • Park, S. H., Lee, C. R., & Hong, S. K. (2020). Implications of agar and agarase in industrial applications of sustainable marine biomass. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 104(7), 2815-2832.
  • Banerjee, S., & Bhattacharya, S. (2012). Food gels: gelling process and new applications. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 52(4), 334-346.

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