Is casein plastic biodegradable? (7 application)

This blog post will cover the biodegradability of casein plastics. Other covered topics will be: 

  • What is casein plastic?
  • How is casein plastic made?
  • What are other similar endeavours like casein plastic?
  • Why is there a need for biodegradable plastics?
  • Are casein plastics biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Is casein plastic biodegradable?

Casein plastic is biodegradable. It is claimed that casein plastic may require around 30 days to degrade. 

Biodegradability is the breakdown of waste into simpler materials by the action of microbes. The common trend regarding biodegradability is that natural materials made from natural sources such as plant-based or animal-based products are biodegradable. 

Since casein plastic is sourced from a natural material, casein plastic is also compostable and renewable. This means that it is sourced from a renewable source and its mass production will not have a significant impact on the environment or the people. 

What is casein plastic? (7 applications) 

Since the industrial revolution, there is a rising trend in consumerism, commercialisation, and urbanisation. Initially, it was thought that all that was very great because human society developed as a whole. 

The trend of consumerism, commercialisation, and urbanisation led to an improved quality of living while also facilitating various functions and ways of life. 

However, it was later discovered that there was a price to be paid for these burgeoning trends. The price was our environment. It was seen that with increased urbanisation, commercialisation, and industrial development, the environment was put at great risk. 

This risk was reciprocated in the form of environmental degradation and environmental anomalies such as global warming and unprecedented weather patterns. We still are paying the price of our defiance of normality. 

One major aspect of commercialisation and consumerism is the use of plastic products in our everyday use. Plastics are synthetic polymers that may remain in the environment for hundreds of years while also causing damage to the environment. 

The use of plastic products is linked with environmental degradation while the impact on life is also claimed. Most plastics are made from fossil fuel derivatives. However, the situation is not that dark. There are some exceptions to this normality. Examples of such defiance of normality can include bioplastics. 

However, have you ever heard that plastics can also be made from natural sources like milk? It may sound baffling but it actually is true. 

Plastics can be and have been made from milk. These plastics are called milk or casein plastics. The story of milk plastics began in the early 1900s. 

Milk plastics can be used to make a number of commercial products such as: 

  • Buckles
  • Jewellery
  • Ornaments
  • Pens
  • Beads
  • Combs 
  • Brush

How is casein plastic made?

The making of casein plastic dates back to the start of the twentieth century. What happens is when milk proteins (termed casein) are mixed with agents such as formaldehyde or formalin for a long period of time, this results in the formation of casein plastic. 

However, this process is a time taking process and may usually require a year or more than a year to make casein plastic from milk. 

Plastic is a polymer. Plastics are a type of polymer. A polymer is a substance or material that is made from repeating units. The repeating units are termed monomers. 

The monomers are chemically bonded to make a polymer. Common examples of polymers may include DNA, RNA or proteins. 

When it comes to polymers, there is a general classification. This classification is based on the naturality or synthetics of the polymers. 

A polymer is naturally occurring and does not need to be devised or synthesised, it is termed a natural polymer. However, if a polymer is not occurring in nature but rather is made in the labs, then the polymers are regarded as synthetic polymers. 

Examples of natural polymers include DNA, RNA, Proteins et cetera. As per the examples of synthetic polymers, plastics are the most common examples of synthetic polymers. 

As per the type of polymers, it is generally seen that the effects of synthetic polymers are greater and more fervent on life and the environment as compared to natural polymers. 

Reclining back to our main heading, when milk is heated and combined with an acid such as vinegar, the polymer present in milk (casein protein) is organised into long chains. This results in the formation of casein protein. 

Casein plastic may be used in a variety of applications such as jewellery and ornaments. It is even claimed that casein plastics were also used to make the jewellery of the queen. 

What are other similar endeavours like casein plastics?

Just as casein plastics are made from natural materials rather than non-natural materials, there are other such endeavours as well. This is mainly because of the recognition of the increased negative impacts of plastics on the environment and human health. 

Examples of such endeavours may include bioplastics and DNA plastics. These are also made from naturally occurring materials instead of relying on fossil fuel derivatives. 

Bioplastics are made from plant-based materials such as corn starch, sugarcane, sugar beets, mushrooms et cetera.

DNA plastics are made from DNA or biosources such as salmon sperm cells. 

These plastics are made from natural sources and are often renewable. Therefore, there are very minimal impacts of such plastics on health and the environment. 

Plastics made from DNA come along with a number of environmental and social benefits. These are: 

  • Bioplastic takes up very less amount of energy to make
  • Bioplastic does not depend on fossil fuel derivatives
  • Bioplastic can easily be degraded by enzymes
  • Bioplastic can also be recycled with great efficiency 
  • Bioplastic does not add to waste generation and accumulation
  • Bioplastic is made from bio-renewable resources
  • Bioplastic may lead to 97% fewer carbon emissions

These are some of the reasons why it is so important to go for biodegradable and bio-renewable resources of plastics because the current waste generation caused by plastics is already beyond 90 million tons. 

Other than the issue of waste generation, conventional plastic leads to a fervent amount of carbon emissions which can be reduced by opting for natural sources instead of depending on fossil fuel derivatives. 

These bioplastics may be used for a number of applications such as the making of plastic cups et cetera. Since there are natural and biological materials involved, there are no known side effects of bioplastics.

Why is there a need for biodegradable plastics?

This section will cover the need and highlight the importance of bioplastics or casein plastics. This can, in turn, be done by covering the negative impacts caused and rendered by conventional plastics that rely on fossil fuels derivatives such as coke or petroleum. 

This is mainly because plastics are made from products that are derived from fossil fuels. When fossil fuels are used, it results in the increased emission of greenhouse gases. 

Greenhouse gases are gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane et cetera. These gases entrap the sun’s energy and lead to a phenomenon known as global warming. 

Global warming leads to other environmental issues such as increased global temperatures, effects on life, deforestation, melting of glaciers, increased melting of glaciers, increased flooding, and unprecedented weather conditions. 

The impacts of plastics are not only limited to the environment but are also manifested in humans. Common complications that arise as a result of plastic use and exposure include: 

  • Organ damage 
  • Damage to skin 
  • Cancer 
  • Eye diseases
  • Hormonal disruption 
  • Neuro Complications 
  • Developmental issues
  • Damage to the foetus 
  • Heart & lung diseases 

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradability can be defined as a process in which biological agents such as enzymes and microbes break down complex waste into simpler structures. The simpler structures are thus able to get back to the system. 

Every day you come across the process of biodegradation. The rotten vegetables that you dispose of or the spoiled fruits that you think can not be eaten. These are common, everyday examples of biodegradation. 

It is the very process of biodegradation that is responsible for the spoilage of food. It can be termed the necessary evil because on one side food is spoiled but on the other side, it is ensured that there is no waste accumulation. 

If there is waste accumulation, there will be environmental problems and anomalies because the waste will lead to problems such as pollution and human diseases. 

Other than microbes and enzymes, there are also external factors that play a key role in the process of biodegradation. These include:

  • Sunlight 
  • Temperature
  • Aeration
  • Presence or absence of oxygen 
  • Type of microbes

Based on biodegradability, waste may be divided into two categories. These are 

  • Biodegradable waste
  • Non-biodegradable waste 

Examples of biodegradable waste include crops, plants, dead animals, manure, sewage, bioplastics, and natural fabrics. These may degrade in some days or some months. 

Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include synthetic plastics, epoxies, synthetic dyes, and synthetic fabrics like acrylic fabrics. These substances may remain in landfills for hundreds of years. 

For example, synthetic plastics may degrade in more than a thousand years while also causing other environmental problems such as global warming, weather anomalies et cetera. 

Are casein plastics biodegradable?

This section will answer the major question of the article. Are casein plastics biodegradable or not? 

We have discussed that biodegradability is the breakdown of waste into simpler materials by the action of microbes. 

The common trend regarding biodegradability is that natural materials made from natural sources such as plant-based or animal-based products are biodegradable. 

However, materials sourced from non-natural sources such as synthetic polymers or synthetic fabrics are not biodegradable. 

When it comes to the case of plastics, it is seen that most plastics are not biodegradable because they are made from non-natural sources. 

However, examples such as bioplastics or casein plastics are made from natural sources and therefore are regarded as biodegradable. 

Other than being biodegradable, casein plastic is also compostable and renewable. This means that it is sourced from a renewable source and its mass production will not have a significant impact on the environment or the people. 

It is claimed that casein plastic may require around 30 days to degrade. This is significant because normal plastics usually require hundreds of years. For example, LDPE may degrade in 500 to 1000 years. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that casein plastic is biodegradable. It is claimed that casein plastic may require around 30 days to degrade. 

Biodegradability is the breakdown of waste into simpler materials by the action of microbes. The common trend regarding biodegradability is that natural materials made from natural sources such as plant-based or animal-based products are biodegradable. 

Since casein plastic is sourced from a natural material, casein plastic is also compostable and renewable. This means that it is sourced from a renewable source and its mass production will not have a significant impact on the environment or the people. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is casein plastic biodegradable?

How long does casein plastic take to degrade?

Casein plastic may degrade in about 30 days. 

Can casein plastic be made at home?

Yes, casein plastic can be made at home by following some basic steps

References 

  • Sivan, A. (2011). New perspectives in plastic biodegradation. Current opinion in biotechnology, 22(3), 422-426.
  • Zheng, Y., Yanful, E. K., & Bassi, A. S. (2005). A review of plastic waste biodegradation. Critical reviews in biotechnology, 25(4), 243-250.
  • Han, J., Guo, Y., Wang, H., Zhang, K., & Yang, D. (2021). Sustainable Bioplastic Made from Biomass DNA and Ionomers. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 143(46), 19486-19497.
  • Pastore, C. (2021). DNA plastic. Nature Nanotechnology, 16(12), 1302-1302.
  • Tokiwa, Y., Calabia, B. P., Ugwu, C. U., & Aiba, S. (2009). Biodegradability of plastics. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(9), 3722-3742.
  • Hopewell, J., Dvorak, R., & Kosior, E. (2009). Plastics recycling: challenges and opportunities. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2115-2126.

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