Is epi plastic biodegradable? (5 types of plastics).

This blog shall answer the question of epi plastic biodegradability.

In addition, other areas shall also be covered.

The areas include:

  • Types of plastics.
  • Biodegradation of plastics.
  • Oxo-biodegradation.
  • Epi plastics and the environment.

Is epi plastic biodegradable?

Yes, epi plastics are biodegradable, albeit partially. The rate of epi plastic biodegradation is dependent on a lot of factors and it is not yet clear whether epi plastics undergo complete biodegradation.

There are a lot of research efforts going on to make plastics fully degradable, but the breakthrough has not yet been achieved.

Plastic polymers are one of the materials that take a lot of years to biodegrade, going for up to a million years.

Epi plastics are some of the plastics produced with some chemical additives to make plastics more biodegradable.

What are the 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.

Plastics are made depending on their purpose 

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 clear plastic.
  • 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.
  • It is naturally transparent.

Uses of polystyrene.

Polystyrene is one of the most used plastics in industries and homes.

The 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 lids.
  • 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.
  • Making wastebaskets.
  • Making pharmacy prescription bottles.
  • Making carpets.
  • Making rugs.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE).

This is a thermoplastic polymer made from ethylene monomers.

It is one of the most used plastics in industries.

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)

High-density polyethylene is one of the most common plastics.

It is used to make industrial, medical, pharmaceutical, and home equipment.

The uses include.

  • Used to make plastic ropes.
  • It is used to make disposable suits.
  • It is used to make plastic mailing envelopes.
  • 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 toys.
  • 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 lasts for shoes.
  • Making plastic bags.
  • Making plastic surgery for skeletal and facial reconstruction.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE).

This is a thermoplastic polymer of ethylene.

It was the first polyethylene plastic to be synthesized.

It still is a very common plastic in industries.

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.

Polyesters can be thermoplastic or thermoset.

They are either natural or synthetic, with natural polyester found in cuticles of some plants.

There are different types of polyesters depending on their chemical components, and the length of their monomers.

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 bottles.
  • Used in making canoes.
  • Used in making insulating tapes.
  • Used in making liquid crystal displays.
  • Used in making filters.

What is EPI plastic?

Having covered the different types of plastics, the question now arises, “what are EPI plastics?”.

EPI plastics are those plastics that are oxo-biodegradable.

Oxo-biodegradable plastics are those plastics that have been treated with additives such as metals to make them decompose at a faster rate when the metals are exposed to heat and oxygen.

Oxo-degradation.

Oxo-degradation is a type of degradation whereby metals are added to non-biodegradable plastics to make them easily decompose by the oxidative process.

Oxo-degradation occurs in two distinct stages.

  • Oxidative degradation.
  • Biodegradation.

Oxidative degradation.

According to a study, this is the mechanical breakdown of plastics into smaller particles.

The process is hastened by agents such as light, UV radiations, light, and oxygen.

Oxygen is the most important agent of oxidative degradation because it helps activate the metal catalysts in the degradation.

The result of oxidative degradation is small particles of plastics which are now acted upon by fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms.

Biodegradation.

This is the second step of oxo-degradation.

It involves microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.

The small particles produced in the oxidative degradation are acted upon by fungi and bacteria.

This results in small biomass and gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, depending on microorganisms, the chemical components of the plastics, or whether the biodegradation is aerobic or anaerobic.

Advantages of oxo-degradation.

Oxo-degradation helps in the breakdown of non-biodegradable plastics.

As a result, oxo-degradation is important in preventing environmental pollution.

Challenges of oxo-degradation.

There is an issue with oxo-degradation.

It has been discovered that oxo-degradation is not fully efficient and plastics that undergo oxo-degradation are not fully decomposed, as a result, EPI plastics also do pollute the environment.

Another challenge is that oxo-degradation requires oxygen for it to happen efficiently.

Plastics in water bodies and landfills, where oxygen is in limited supply will therefore not be under oxo-degradation.

Are EPI plastics eco-friendly?

Yes, EPI plastics are eco-friendly to some degree although this can be debatable.

Some research has shown that oxo-degradation does not result in the total breakdown of plastics, therefore, epi plastics do not break down and this will lead to environmental pollution.

But oxo-degradation will lead to the breakdown of plastics into small particles nonetheless, and thus will reduce the effects of plastics pollution on the environment.

So it is right to say epi plastics are eco-friendly.

Conclusion.

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

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Definition of epi plastics.
  • Definition of oxo-degradation.
  • Stages of oxo-degradation.
  • Types and uses of plastics.
  • Effects of epi plastic on the environment.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is epi plastic biodegradable?

Is epi plastic biodegradable?

Yes, epi plastic is biodegradable, albeit partially.

The additives added to plastics will break them into small particles which will then be broken down by bacteria and fungi into smaller plastic particles which will have very toxicity to the environment.

Is there biodegradable plastic?

Yes, a group of plastics derived from natural products is biodegradable.

These plastics are called bioplastics.

Semi-synthetic plastics which contain some natural materials would also undergo partial biodegradation.

Is HDPE biodegradable?

No, HDPE plastic is not biodegradable because it is a polymer of ethylene which is a petrochemical.

Citations.

Chiellini, E.; Corti, A.; D’Antone, S.; Baciu, R. (1 November 2006). “Oxo-biodegradable carbon backbone polymers – Oxidative degradation of polyethylene under accelerated test conditions”. Polymer Degradation and Stability. 91 (11): 2739–2747. doi:10.1016/j.polymdegradstab.2006.03.022

Brandl H, Püchner P (1992). “Biodegradation Biodegradation of Plastic Bottles Made from ‘Biopol’ in an Aquatic Ecosystem Under In Situ Conditions”. Biodegradation. 2 (4): 237–43. doi:10.1007/BF00114555. 

Dominic Hogg; et al. (7 August 2016). The impact of the use of “oxo-degradable” plastic on the environment: final report. publications. europa.eu (Report). Retrieved 17 May 2022.

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