Is dextran biodegradable? (5 green disposal practices of dextran)

This article covers important questions about dextran and addresses the following topics:

  • What is dextran and what are its uses
  • Is dextran and dextrin the same substances?
  • Is it natural?
  • Is it biodegradable?
  • Is it a sustainable substance?
  • Is it environmentally friendly?
  • Are there any better alternatives available in the market?

Is dextran biodegradable?

Yes, dextran is a biodegradable substance. Since dextran is composed of glucose units, it can be degraded by various enzymes, including amylases and dextranases, that break down the glycosidic bonds between the glucose molecules. Dextran degradation products are ultimately metabolized by microorganisms in the environment. 

The rate of degradation depends on various factors, such as molecular weight, degree of branching, and the presence of other compounds in the environment. Overall, dextran is considered to be a biodegradable and environmentally friendly substance.

Is it a sustainable substance?

Whether dextran is considered a sustainable substance or not can depend on various factors such as its production, use, and disposal. Here are some points to consider:

  • Production: The production of dextran can generate waste and require energy and resources. However, dextran can be produced from renewable resources such as sucrose, which can make it more sustainable than non-renewable materials. 
  • Use: Dextran can be used in various applications that can contribute to sustainability, such as in biodegradable packaging, as a replacement for non-renewable materials, or as a blood substitute to reduce the need for blood transfusions.
  • Disposal: As a biodegradable substance, dextran can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way, as described in a previous answer. Proper disposal can help prevent any negative environmental impact.

How to properly dispose of dextran? (5 green disposal practices of dextran?)

Dextran can be disposed of safely and responsibly by following the appropriate waste management practices. The exact disposal method may depend on the specific form of dextran and the regulations in your local area. Here are some general guidelines for disposing of dextran:

  • Check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or product label for specific disposal instructions and any hazardous waste classification.
  • If the dextran is considered hazardous waste, follow your local hazardous waste disposal regulations, which may include using a licensed waste disposal company or a designated hazardous waste facility.
  • If the dextran is not considered hazardous waste, it may be disposed of with other non-hazardous waste, such as in a municipal landfill or an industrial waste treatment facility.
  • If the dextran is in solution form, it may be possible to degrade it through biological treatment, such as in a wastewater treatment plant, before disposal.
  • If possible, minimize the amount of dextran waste generated by using only the necessary amount and finding ways to reuse or recycle any unused dextran.

What is the applicability of dextran?

Dextran is a complex branched polysaccharide composed of glucose units, produced by certain strains of bacteria, notably Leuconostoc and Streptococcus. It is soluble in water and has a high molecular weight, which can range from several thousand to several million Daltons. Dextran molecules vary in size and can have different degrees of branching, depending on the method of production.

Dextran has a wide range of applications in various industries, such as pharmaceuticals, food, and biotechnology. In the medical field, dextran is used as a plasma volume expander to treat hypovolemia, a condition characterized by a decrease in blood volume. 

In the food industry, dextran is used as a stabilizer, thickener, and emulsifier. It is commonly added to baked goods, dairy products, and beverages to improve texture, appearance, and shelf life. In biotechnology, dextran is used as a medium for microbial growth and as a stabilizer for enzymes and proteins.

Are dextran and dextrin the same substances?

No, dextran and dextrin are not the same substances. Although they sound similar and are both polysaccharides, they have different structures and properties. Dextran is a complex branched polysaccharide composed of glucose units that are typically produced by certain strains of bacteria during fermentation. 

Dextran is commonly used in various applications, including as a plasma volume expander, a blood anticoagulant, a food additive, and a biotechnology reagent.

Dextrin, on the other hand, is a simpler, linear polysaccharide that is derived from starch. Dextrin is produced by heating starch in the presence of an acid, enzymes, or other catalysts, which breaks down the starch molecules into shorter chains of glucose units. 

Dextrin is commonly used in various applications, including as a food additive, a binding agent, and a coating agent. While dextran and dextrin have different properties and uses, they are both polysaccharides and can be used as alternatives to each other in some applications.

Is it environmentally friendly?

Dextran is generally considered to be an environmentally friendly substance due to its biodegradability and low toxicity. Dextran is composed of glucose units and is biodegradable, meaning it can be broken down by microorganisms in the environment. 

Additionally, dextran is typically considered to be non-toxic and safe for use in various applications. However, the environmental impact of dextran depends on its production and usage. 

Dextran production can generate waste and require energy and resources, and excessive use of dextran or improper disposal can still have negative environmental consequences. Therefore, while dextran can be considered an environmentally friendly substance, it is important to use it responsibly and consider its environmental impact throughout its life cycle.

Are there any better alternatives available in the market?

Yes, there are alternatives to dextran that can be used in various applications. The specific alternative will depend on the particular application of dextran. Here are some examples:

  • Plasma volume expanders: Other types of volume expanders that are used to increase blood volume in patients include saline solutions, albumin, and hydroxyethyl starch.
  • Blood anticoagulants: Other anticoagulants that are used to prevent blood clotting during surgery or blood transfusions include heparin, citrate, and warfarin.
  • Food additives: Other food additives that are used as thickeners, stabilizers, and emulsifiers include carrageenan, agar, pectin, and xanthan gum.
  • Biotechnology applications: Other substances that can be used as microbial growth media or protein stabilizers include agarose, gelatin, and polyethylene glycol (PEG).

It is important to note that the suitability of any alternative will depend on its specific properties and the requirements of the application. Additionally, some alternatives may have different environmental impacts or safety considerations than dextran, so it is important to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of any substitute.


Dextran is a complex branched polysaccharide that is commonly used in various applications, such as a plasma volume expander, a blood anticoagulant, a food additive, and a biotechnology reagent. It is a biodegradable substance that can be disposed of responsibly through appropriate waste management practices. 

The sustainability of dextran can depend on its production, use, and disposal practices. There are alternative substances that can be used for different applications, which can be evaluated based on their specific properties and requirements. In summary, dextran has many practical uses and can contribute to sustainability, but its overall impact depends on various factors.


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