Is elastic biodegradable? (5 reasons why the rubber is useful)

This article shall answer the question, “is elastic biodegradable?”. 

It shall also cover topics such as:

  • What is elasticity?
  • What are elastomers?
  • Types of elastomers.
  • Harvesting of rubber from trees.
  • The synthesis of synthetic rubber.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of natural rubber.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of synthetic rubber.

Is elastic biodegradable?

Yes, the natural elastic is biodegradable while synthetic elastic is non-biodegradable. The biodegradability of elastics depends on the type of material. Naturally occurring elastic materials are biodegradable while those synthesized by chemical processes are non-biodegradable.

What is elastic material?

According to Robert J. Ouellette, An elastic material is any solid object that can get back to its former shape when it’s distorted.

What are elastomers?

Elastomers are different types of elastic materials.

What are the types of elastic materials?

Elastic materials include:

  • Natural rubber.
  • Synthetic rubber.

What is natural rubber?

Natural rubber is a type of rubber that is obtained from the latex which is produced by the cells of latex-producing bees.

The main natural material in the natural rubber is isoprene. 

The isoprene monomers join together to form a rubber polymer.

How is natural rubber produced?

Natural rubber is produced from latex. 

Latex is acquired from latex-producing trees by a process called tapping.

The collection of latex entails:

  • Making tappings on trees by cutting the back of the tree.
  • Attaching collecting vessels to the trees where latex accumulates.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

After the collection of latex, the next process is making rubber from latex.

The process entails:

  • Collecting latex in drums.
  • Adding chemicals such as nitric acid to the latex.
  • The latex curds formed are then cut into shapes to form rubber.
  • The rubber produced can be made tougher by adding sulfur, a process called vulcanization.

What are the uses of natural rubber?

The uses include:

  • Making surgical gloves.
  • Making motor tires.
  • Making pacifiers.
  • Making toys.
  • Used in clothes.
  • Making rubber bands.
  • Making shoe-soles.
  • Making hoses and pipes.
  • Making floor mats.
  • Making balloons.
  • Making condoms.

What is synthetic rubber?

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the process by which organic or natural products are broken down by various biotic and abiotic factors such as:

  • Water.
  • Sunlight.
  • Temperature.
  • Bacteria.
  • Fungi.

Water.

This causes biodegradation by carrying the materials and causing mechanical breakdown.

Sunlight.

Some light wavelengths cause the mechanical breakdown of organic materials into smaller particles.

Temperature.

Temperature causes the expansion and contraction of organic materials.

This causes the material to experience stress which in return results in mechanical breakdown.

Bacteria.

Bacteria break down organic material through the process of respiration to form small particles which they use to acquire energy.

The most common and active bacteria include:

  • Pseudomonas.
  • Bacillus.
  • Mycobacteria.

Fungi.

They break down organic matter into small particles which they then assimilate into their body systems.

They include:

  • Yeasts.
  • Mushrooms
  • Molds.
  • Mildew.
  • Lichens.

What are the types of biodegradation?

Types of biodegradation include:

Aerobic biodegradation.

This entails bacteria and fungi breaking down organic matter by the use of oxygen.

The end products include water, carbon dioxide, small particles( small biomass), and energy.

This process is faster than anaerobic biodegradation.

Anaerobic biodegradation.

This entails the bacteria breaking down organic matter in the absence of oxygen.

The end products include water, methane gas, small particles ( small biomass), and energy.

This process is slower as compared to aerobic biodegradation although it is more efficient.

What are the steps of biodegradation?

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct steps:

  • Biodeterioration.
  • Bio-fragmentation.
  • Assimilation.

Biodeterioration.

This is the first stage of biodegradation.

Organic materials are mechanically broken down by light, water, and temperature into smaller particles that are easily acted upon by bacteria and fungi.

Bio-fragmentation.

This is the second stage of biodegradation.

Organic matter is broken down by bacteria and fungi, either aerobically or anaerobically.

Water, carbon dioxide, methane gas, energy, and small biomass are produced depending on the type of process.

Assimilation.

It’s the last stage of biodegradation.

Involves the uptake of biomass produced into the body system of the bacteria or fungi to be used in various biological processes.

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability is the capacity of something being able to undergo biodegradation.

What factors affect biodegradation?

They include:

Light.

The presence of a certain light wavelength will increase or decrease the rate of biodegradation.

Water.

The intensity of water flow will determine the rate at which the materials are broken down.

Temperature.

When the temperature is high, organic materials expand, when the temperature is low, they contract.

This expansion and contraction hasten the biodegradation process.

At optimum temperature, bacteria will increase the rate of biodegradation.

Very high temperature kills bacteria, while very low temperatures inactivate bacteria, hence reducing the rate of biodegradation.

Biodegradability.

Materials that have high biodegradability will undergo fast biodegradation as compared to those with low biodegradability.

Is natural elastic biodegradable?

Yes, the natural elastic is biodegradable. 

It contains natural rubber which is highly biodegradable by bacteria and fungi.

Is natural elastic eco-friendly?

According to a study, the natural elastic is eco-friendly because it contains natural elements which are easily broken down by bacteria and fungi.

Natural rubber, therefore, does not pollute the environment.

Is natural elastic toxic?

No, natural is non-toxic to the user or the environment.

This is because it is made from natural plant products that are non-toxic and easily broken down into simpler non-harmful products.

Is synthetic elastic biodegradable? 

No, the synthetic elastic is not biodegradable.

This is because it is made from chemical petroleum products which are not easily broken down by bacteria or fungi.

Is synthetic elastic eco-friendly?

No, the synthetic elastic is not eco-friendly.

This is because it is made from components that are not easily broken down by bacteria or fungi.

When disposed of, the synthetic elastic accumulates in the environment contaminating soil and water bodies.

Is synthetic elastic toxic?

Yes, synthetic elastic is toxic to the user.

This is because it is made from petroleum products, which when burnt down, produce gases that are toxic and irritate the respiratory system of the user.

So, synthetic elastic can easily cause respiratory disease when the fumes produced when it’s burnt down are inhaled.

What are the advantages of natural elastic?

They include the following;

  • It can easily stretch under low temperatures.
  • It has good tensile strength.
  • It is eco-friendly.
  • It is non-toxic.

What are the disadvantages of natural elastic?

They include the following:

  • It is easily affected by chemicals.
  • It wears easily since it’s not tough.
  • It has low resistance to oils and fats.

What are the advantages of synthetic elastic?

They include the following:

  • It is resistant to extreme temperatures.
  • It is tough, hence doesn’t wear and tear easily.
  • It is resistant to fire.
  • It is highly inert; does not react with most chemicals.

What are the disadvantages of synthetic elastic?

They include the following:

  • Weak tensile strength.
  • Less flexible under low temperatures.
  • Non-biodegradable hence toxic to the environment.

Conclusion.

In this article, various topics have been covered.

They include different types of elastics, biodegradation processes, uses of rubbers, advantages, and disadvantages of natural and synthetic rubbers, and the process of harvesting natural rubber from trees.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Is elastic biodegradable?

Is elastic biodegradable?  

Yes, elastic is biodegradable depending on the type.

Natural elastic is biodegradable while synthetic elastic is non-biodegradable.

Can rubber be environmentally friendly?

Yes, natural rubber is environmentally friendly because it is formed from natural plant products.

The rubber can be degraded by bacteria and fungi into small harmless particles.

Synthetic rubber is not environmentally friendly because it is made from petroleum products.

It is non-biodegradable thus causing toxicity to the environment.

Is natural rubber compostable?

Yes, natural rubber is compostable since it is biodegradable. 

It can easily be broken down by bacteria and fungi.

You can leave your comments or questions in the comment section below.

Citations.

Sirimaporn Leepromrath, et al. “Rubber crop diversity and its influential factors in Thailand.” Journal of Rubber Research 24.3 (2021): 461-473.

Hosler, D.; Burkett, S.L.; Tarkanian, M.J. (1999). “Prehistoric polymers: Rubber processing in ancient Mesoamerica”. Science. 284 (5422): 1988–1991. doi:10.1126/science.284.5422.1988.

Frank Swain. ( 9th March 2021). The wonder material we all need is running out: Journal of Rubber Trees.

Retrieved from:

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210308-rubber-the-wonder-material-we-are-running-out-of

Ouellette, Robert, and David Rawn. (2015) 2015. Principles of Organic Chemistry. [2nd edition]. Elsevier Science.

Retrieved from:

https://www.perlego.com/book/1829473/principles-of-organic-chemistry-pdf

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