Is eps biodegradable? (5 uses of eps plastic).

In this article, the question on eps 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 eps plastic.
  • Uses of eps plastics.
  • Pros and cons of eps plastics.
  • Eco-friendliness of eps plastic.

Is eps biodegradable?

No, eps are not biodegradable. Eps is made up of plastics from crude oil. Crude oil products are not biodegradable because microorganisms can not break them down.

There are different types of plastics and each has its properties and uses.

Biodegradation is a wide process that involves different agents playing different yet very important roles.

Biodegradation process.

Biodegradation is the process by which organic materials from plants and animals are broken down by such agents as light, temperature, water, radiation, bacteria, and fungi into small particles which are not toxic to the environment.

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.

Light contains different radiations at different wavelengths.

Radiations such as ultraviolet radiation oxidize organic materials which cause them to disintegrate into small particles which are then degraded by microorganisms.

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.

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 different 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.

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 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)

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

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 uses 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 eps plastic?

Eps plastic is a rigid, tough, closed cell lightweight thermoplastic material.

It is made up of pre-expanded polystyrene beads.

Production of eps plastic involves:

  • Polystyrene is produced from styrene acquired from crude oil.
  • Polystyrene is then mixed with a foaming agent, pentane gas, at temperatures as high as 90⁰ Celsius.
  • Granules form as heating continues.
  • Foaming gas evaporates, infiltrating the beads.
  • The beads expand to almost 50 times their size.
  • Then they are let cool.

The eps formed are then made into different shapes and sizes depending on their target use.

  • Block molding is done for large blocks of eps plastic.
  • The shape molding process is done to produce custom shapes for small components.

Uses of eps plastic.

  • It is used for food packaging.
  • It is used for seed trays.
  • It is used for the packaging of fruits and vegetables.
  • It is used to store small electronic components.
  • It is used to protect and insulate refrigerators and freezers.

Advantages of eps plastic.

  • It is lightweight, with 98% of its weight being air and therefore it is easy to transport.
  • It is tough.
  • It has a thermal insulation property, protecting food stored in it from spoilage.
  • It is versatile and easily branded, and can be used for different purposes.
  • It is hygienic and safe- it is nontoxic and chemically inert and therefore fungi and bacteria do not grow on it.
  • It is waterproof, protecting goods stored in it 
  • It is cheap to acquire.

Eps and environment.

According to a study, Eps is an eco-friendly plastic.

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 contains only 2% polystyrene plastic, and hence it has a low carbon content.
  • It can be recycled.
  • It can be disposed of by burning in an incinerator, hence no toxic gases are released into the environment.

Conclusion.

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

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Types of plastics and their uses.
  • Biodegradation process.
  • Definition of eps plastic.
  • Properties and uses of eps.
  • Eps and environment.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is eps biodegradable?

Is polystyrene biodegradable?

No, polystyrene is a thermoplastic derived from crude oil.

It is not susceptible to bacterial or fungal degradation since biodegradation occurs in organic materials only.

How long does it take for EPS to biodegrade?

Eps does not biodegradable.

Some research shows that it takes 500 to 1000 years to partially decompose, therefore, it is not right to say eps is biodegradable.

Is there a biodegradable resin?

Yes, resins obtained from organic sources such as plants and animals are biodegradable.

Citations.

Wunsch, J.R. (2000). Polystyrene – Synthesis, Production, and Applications. Smithers Rapra Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-85957-191-0. Retrieved 25 July 2012

Heeger AJ, Kivelson S, Schrieffer JR, Su WP (1988). “Solitons in Conducting Polymers”. Reviews of Modern Physics. 60 (3): 781–850. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.60.781

Scott G, Gilead D, eds. (1995). Degradable Polymers. Netherlands: Dordrecht Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-011-0571-2

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