Is epdm biodegradable? (5 applications of epdm rubber).

This blog article shall address the question,” is this epdm rubber biodegradable?”.

It shall also cover other areas such as:

  • Definition of epdm rubber.
  • The categories of rubber.
  • Uses of epdm rubber.
  • Pros and cons of epdm rubber.
  • Biodegradability of epdm rubber.

Is epdm biodegradable?

No, epdm rubber is derived from synthetic, non-organic plastic polymers which are non-biodegradable.

Biodegradation occurs in the carbon-related compounds which are produced by plants or animals.

There is a huge demand for rubber in the world for various reasons.

As a result of this high demand, organic rubber produced by plants and animals can not be enough, and as such, synthetic rubber is the most used type of rubber.

Other than availability, synthetic rubber has a plethora of advantages over natural rubber, but the biggest challenge of synthetic rubber is its non-biodegradability.

This has resulted in massive environmental pollution. 

But 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.

When water carries organic matter, it breaks it down into smaller molecules that are easily acted upon by bacteria and fungi.

Sunlight.

Different materials are oxidized by light radiations at different rates.

UV radiations are the most effective radiations in the oxidation of materials.

Oxidized materials then break down into small particles which are then acted upon by bacteria and fungi.

Temperatures.

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 are the types of rubbers?

There are two main types of rubbers depending on their chemical composition.

  • 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.

Latex is obtained from rubber trees in two distinct steps.

  • Cuttings are made on the bark of rubber trees.
  • Collecting vessels are attached to the trees where latex accumulates.

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?

It is an artificial rubber that is made from petroleum components through a chemical process.

It is a polymer of styrene-butadiene polymer.

Types of synthetic rubber?

They include:

  • Nitrile rubber.
  • Silicone rubber.
Nitrile rubber?

It is a type of synthetic rubber made from butadiene and acrylonitrile.

It is also called nitrile-butadiene rubber, NBR.

It is resistant to oil, fuel, and chemical compounds.

Uses of nitrile rubber

Nitrile rubber is used in:

  • Making non-latex gloves.
  • Making automotive belts.
  • Making gaskets.
  • Making oil seals.
  • Making rollers.
  • Making cable jackets.
  • Making hydraulic seals.
  • Making synthetic leather.
Silicone rubber

It is a type of synthetic rubber made from silicon and oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. 

Uses of silicone rubber.

It is used in:

  • Making insulators for cooking and electrical gadgets.
  • Making clothes.
  • Making shoes and sportswear.
  • Making adhesives.
  • Making sealants.
  • Making lubricants.
  • Making resins

What is epdm rubber?

According to an article, EPDM rubber is a synthetic rubber that is made from the monomers of ethylene, propylene, and diene.

The monomers are heated to form a cross-linking and then treated with sulfur to improve elasticity and hardness in a process called vulcanization.

EPDM is an M-class rubber under ASTM standard D-1418.

M-class elastics are those with saturated chains of polyethylene.

Properties of EPDM rubber.

The following are the properties of EPDM rubber.

  • It is semi-crystalline.
  • It is resistant to heat.
  • It is resistant to biodegradation.
  • It is resistant to temperatures as high as 160⁰ Celsius.
  • It is more resistant to light and ozone than natural rubber.
  • It is flexible under very low temperatures.
  • It is compatible with polar solvents.
  • It is incompatible with hydrocarbon substances such as oil, kerosene, and gasoline.
  • It does not conduct electricity.

Uses of EPDM rubber.

EPDM rubber is used in various ways which include the following:

  • It is used as an electric insulator.
  • It is used for sealing and gasketing.
  • It is used for cushioning.
  • It is used for making seals for refrigerators and freezers.
  • It is used for making tubes.
  • It is used for making wiper blades for vehicles.
  • In making door and window seals in vehicles.
  • It is used for making face masks for industrial respirators.
  • It is used for making garden hoses.

Advantages of using EPDM rubber.

The following are the advantages of using EPDM rubber.

  • It is cheap to acquire.
  • It is non-toxic. 
  • Insulates roofs because it is resistant to heat, light, and ozone.
  • It is durable.
  • It is recyclable.
  • It is compatible with solar panels.

Disadvantages of EPDM rubber.

The following are the disadvantages of EPDM rubber.

  • It is incompatible with most hydrocarbon substances like oil, kerosene, and gasoline.
  • It is non-biodegradable and therefore, it causes environmental pollution if it is not recycled.
  • It has a high degree of shrinkage.

Is EPDM rubber eco-friendly?

Yes, EPDM rubber is eco-friendly because it can be recycled.

EPDM can be taken to recycling industries or it can be used for other purposes like a source of fire instead of using fossil fuels.

However, when EPDM is burnt, it produces fumes that are toxic to the environment.

If EPDM is disposed of in the environment, it will lead to environmental pollution because it is non-biodegradable.

So the best way to dispose of EPDM is by recycling it.

Conclusion.

In this blog, the question on the biodegradation of EPDM rubber has been answered.

Other areas which have been addressed include.

  • The use of EPDM rubber.
  • Pros and cons of EPDM rubber.
  • The process and types of biodegradation.
  • Eco-friendliness of EPDM rubber.
  • Types of rubbers and their uses.

For any questions or comments, please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is EPDM biodegradable?

Is EPDM biodegradable?

No, EPDM is not biodegradable.

EPDM is made up of petrochemical plastics that are not broken down by microorganisms.

Is EPDM rubber toxic?

No, EPDM rubber is not toxic.

The components of EPDM do not leach to the soil and therefore do not spoil water and soil and therefore, are not toxic to plants and animals.

Does EPDM contain latex?

No, EPDM is made from petrochemical substances, and therefore, it does not contain latex which is an organic substance produced by rubber trees.

Citations.

Traz Ouhadi, Sabet Abdou-Sabet, Hans-Georg Wussow, Larry M. Ryan, Lawrence Plummer, Franz Erich Baumann, Jörg Lohmar, Hans F. Vermeire and Frédéric L.G. Malet (2014). “Thermoplastic Elastomers”. Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. pp. 1–41. doi:10.1002/14356007.a26_633.pub4

 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

Herbert, Vernon; Bisio, Attilio (December 11, 1985). Synthetic Rubber: A Project That Had to Succeed. Contributions in Economics and Economic History. Greenwood Press. p. 32ff. ISBN 978-0313246340.

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