Is epe biodegradable? (5 uses of epe plastic)

In this article, the question on epe biodegradability will be answered.

Also, other areas will be covered, they include the following:

  • Types of plastics.
  • Uses of different types of plastics.
  • Definition of biodegradation and its process.
  • Definition of ep plastic.
  • Uses of epe plastics.
  • Pros and cons of eps plastics.
  • Eco-friendliness of epe plastic

Is epe biodegradable?

No, epe is not biodegradable. Epe plastic is a type of polyethylene, which is a plastic sourced from crude oil.

Biodegradation occurs only in the organic compounds that are susceptible to bacterial and fungal microorganisms.

Materials acquired from crude are not susceptible to microbial degradation and therefore they are not categorized as biodegradable.

The process of biodegradation can happen over a short time or a long period.

The rate and time of biodegradation depend on the material of a substance, the number of microorganisms available, and the presence of abiotic factors such as temperature and light.

Agents of biodegradation.

Biodegradation is carried out by the following agents:

  • Light radiation.
  • Water.
  • Bacteria.
  • Fungi.

Light radiation.

Light occurs in different wavelengths.

The most efficient radiation in the degradation of substances is ultraviolet radiation.

Ultraviolet radiation occurs between the wavelengths of 100-300 nm.

They degrade materials by oxidation which makes the material break down into small substances.

Water. 

This causes biodegradation by carrying the materials and causing 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.

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.

Types of plastics. 

Plastic is a synthetic or semi-synthetic material made from polymers of hydrocarbons.

A plastic substance is that which can be molded into different shapes.

Plastics can be either elastic or rigid.

The different types of plastics include:

Polystyrene.

Polystyrene is a polymer of styrene monomer.

Styrene is a hydrocarbon obtained from crude oil and natural gas.

Polystyrene occurs in 2 forms; either solid or foam.

When it occurs as foam it is called styrofoam.

Properties of polystyrene.

The following are the properties of polystyrene.

  • It is brittle.
  • It is hard 
  • It has a low melting point.
  • It is chemically inert.
  • It is resistant to corrosion.
  • It is waterproof.
  • It is impermeable or gas.
  • It is non-biodegradable.
  • Uses of polystyrene.
  • Polystyrene is one of the most used plastics in industries and homes.

Uses of polystyrene include:

  • Making jewel cases for storage of optical devices such as CDs and DVDs.
  • Making containers.
  • Making bottles.
  • Making trays 
  • Making tumblers.
  • Making disposable cutlery.
  • Making egg plastic crates.

Polypropylene.

It is also called polypropene.

It is the second most used plastic after PVC.

It is a rigid, semi-crystalline thermoplastic polymer.

Properties of polypropylene.

The following are the properties of polypropylene.

  • Resistant to fats and oils.
  • Resistant to organic solvents.
  • It oxidizes under high temperatures into xylene, decalin, and tetralin.
  • It is semi-crystalline.
  • It is resistant to heat.
  • It is resistant to microbial degradation.

Uses of polypropylene.

The uses of polypropylene include the following.

  • Making plastic living hinges.
  • In the manufacturing of piping systems.
  • Making laboratory plastic equipment.
  • Making consumer-grade kettles.
  • Making plastic tubs for dairy products.
  • Making plastic containers.
  • Making disposable bottles.
  • Making car batteries.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE).

This is a thermoplastic polymer made from ethylene monomers.

It is also called alkaline plastic.

Properties of high-density polyethylene.

  • The following are the properties of high-density polyethylene plastic.
  • It has a high strength-to-density ratio.
  • It has high tensile strength.
  • Unlike polypropylene, it can not withstand very high temperatures.
  • It is resistant to chemicals.
  • It is hard and opaque.
  • It can not be glued.

Uses of high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

The uses include.

  • Used to make plastic ropes.
  • It is used to make plastic pipes.
  • It is used to make plastic chairs.
  • It is used to make plastic crates.
  • It is used to make plastic bottles.
  • It is used to make 3D printer filaments.
  • Used in making ballistic plates.
  • Used in making banners.
  • Making insulators.
  • Making fuel tanks for vehicles.
  • Making plastic bags.
  • Making plastic surgery for skeletal and facial reconstruction.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE).

This is a thermoplastic polymer of ethylene.

Properties of low-density polyethylene.

The following are the properties of low-density polyethylene.

  • It is inert at room temperature.
  • It is affected by strong solvents.
  • It can withstand slightly high temperatures.
  • It is tough.
  • It is flexible.
  • It is less crystalline.
  • It has a low tensile strength.
  • It produces greenhouse gases methane and ethylene.
  • It easily breaks down as compared to other plastics.

Uses of low-density polyethylene.

The following are the uses of low-density polyethylene.

  • In making packaging foams.
  • In making plastic bowls.
  • In making plastic bottles.
  • In making plastic tubes.
  • Making plastic components of the computer.
  • Making plastic laboratory equipment.
  • Making plastic paper bags.
  • Making plastic trays.
  • Making surfaces resistant to corrosion.
  • Making juice and milk cartons.
  • Making LDPE pipes.
  • Making battery cases.

Polyester.

This is a polymer that contains a repeat of ester groups.

It is also called polyethylene terephthalate.

Properties of polyester plastic.

The following are the properties of polyester.

  • It is inert.
  • It is a strong and hard material.
  • It is durable.
  • It is resistant to microbial attack.
  • It is lightweight, and hence easy to carry.
  • It is fully recyclable.

Uses of polyester.

The following are the properties of polyester plastic.

  • It is used in making fabrics for knitting shirts, pants, jackets, bed sheets, blankets, upholstery, and hats.
  • It is used in the reinforcement of car tires.
  • Making conveyor belts.
  • Making safety belts.
  • Used as cushioning material in pillows.
  • Used in making liquid crystal displays

What is EPE material?

According to a study, Epe material stands for expanded polyethylene.

This is a lightweight thermoplastic expanded polyethylene material that is produced from either polyester, high-density polyethylene, or low-density polyethylene.

Polyester, high-density polyethylene, or low-density polyethylene is heated at high temperatures together with a foaming agent such as pentane gas.

Beads start to form at around 90⁰ Celsius.

The foaming agents such as pentane evaporates and enters the beads, causing them to expand to almost 50 times their original size.

The foam is then shaped through two processes.

  • Block molding- this process produces large blocks of styrofoam.
  • Shape-molding- this process produces custom shapes for various purposes.

Properties of EPE material.

The following are the expanded polyethylene materials.

  • It has low density.
  • It is semi-rigid.
  • It has a smooth appearance.
  • It is resistant to chemicals.
  • It is tough.
  • It is waterproof.
  • It is lightweight.

Uses of EPE material.

The following are the uses of EPE material.

  • In cushioning applications such as refrigerators and freezers.
  • In the packaging of substances such as electronic components.
  • In the lightweight filling of roads and railways.
  • As an Insulating panel system for walls and roofs.
  • As flotation material in the construction of pontoons.

Is EPE eco-friendly?

Yes, EPE materials are eco-friendly.

The following properties make it good for the environment.

  • It is free of greenhouse gases such as chlorofluorocarbons, therefore, it has a low potential of causing global warming.
  • It is lightweight and therefore it requires low fuel for transportation.
  • Its manufacturing process has low pollution to the environment because steam is the main source of energy used and water is highly re-used.
  • It can be disposed of by burning in an incinerator, hence no toxic gases are released into the environment.
  • A large percentage of its constitution is a foaming agent, the plastic component is small and therefore low carbon content which is safe for the environment.
  • It is recyclable.

Conclusion.

This blog has answered the question, “is EPE biodegradable?”.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Types of plastics.
  • Uses of plastics.
  • Biodegradation process.
  • Definition of epe.
  • Uses of epe.
  • Epe and environment.

Did you enjoy reading this blog? You can leave your questions or comments in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is EPE biodegradable?

Can EPE be recycled?

Yes, EPE plastic is almost 100% recyclable.

The used-up epe material can be taken to a recycling industry where they are recycled and put into other use.

What is the difference between EPE and EPS?

EPE is expanded polyethylene material that is derived from polyester, high-density polyethylene, and low-density polyethylene plastics 

EPS is expanded polypropylene foam that is acquired by foaming polypropylene.

Is EPP better than EPS?

Yes, EPP is less brittle and more flexible than EPS.

EPS easily breaks and gets distorted when it’s put under pressure while EPP expands under pressure, and gets back to its shape.

Citations.

Andrady AL, Neal MA (July 2009). “Applications and societal benefits of plastics”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1526): 1977–84. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0304. 

Shashi Bahl, Jigmat Dolma, Shankar Sehgal. ( 20 April 2020). Biodegradation of plastics: A state of the art review.

Retrieved from:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214785320345508#:~:text=Biodegradation%20is%20a%20conversion%20of,additives%20added%20to%20the%20polymers.

Geyer, Roland; Jambeck, Jenna R.; Law, Kara Lavender (1 July 2017). “Production, use, and the fate of all plastics ever made”. Science Advances. 3 (7): e1700782. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1700782. 

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