Is ethylene-vinyl acetate biodegradable? (5 applications of ethylene vinyl acetate) 

This blog will feature the answer to the question, ” is ethylene-vinyl acetate biodegradable?.

It shall also address other areas such as:

  • The composition of ethylene-vinyl acetate.
  • The uses of ethylene-vinyl acetate.
  • Pros and cons of using ethylene vinyl acetate.
  • Definition and uses of ethylene.
  • Definition and uses of vinyl acetate.

Is ethylene-vinyl acetate biodegradable?

No, ethylene-vinyl acetate is not biodegradable. Ethylene-vinyl acetate is a thermoplastic polymer that is not susceptible to biodegradation.

The process of biodegradation is a complex one, and it does not occur in every material.

Biodegradation only occurs in natural organic materials which are obtained from plants and animals 

To understand this better, let’s look at the process of biodegradation.

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.
  • Aspergillus.
  • Penicillium

Fungi.

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

They include:

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

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.

Advantages of biodegradation.

Biodegradation has several advantages which include the following:

  • It cleans the environment of the wastes.
  • Applicable to a wide range of products.
  • It can be triggered through composting
  • It is cost-effective.
  • Results to soil enrichment with nutrients.
  • Used to produce bioenergy.
  • Biodegradation through fermentation has led to the manufacturing of drugs.
  • It leads to the production of organic acids and alcohol.

Disadvantages of biodegradation.

Biodegradation has several disadvantages which include:

  • It leads to wear and tear of organic-based materials such as clothes.
  • It takes a very long time to degrade waste.
  • When used to produce bioenergy, it requires a lot of biomass.
  • It is easily affected by contaminants such as oil and antibiotics.
  • It is only limited to organic matter.

Factors affecting biodegradation.

Biodegradation can be affected by several factors which include:

  • Temperature.
  • Biomass.
  • Fungal and bacterial concentration ( Microbial population).
  • Oxygen.
  • Contaminants.
  • Types of wastes.

What is ethylene-vinyl acetate?

Ethylene-vinyl acetate is a copolymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate.

Ethylene is usually the majority in the composition, ranging from 60-90%, with the remainder of the composition being vinyl acetate.

Ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymers occur in three different types depending on the content of vinyl acetate.

They include the following:

Vinyl acetate modified polyethylene copolymer.

This copolymer has a low percentage of vinyl acetate which is approximately 4%.

It is a thermoplastic material that resembles low-density polyethylene in its properties which include:

  • It is more flexible than low-density polyethylene.
  • It is softer than low-density polyethylene.
  • It is inert at room temperature.
  • It is affected by strong solvents.
  • It can withstand slightly high temperatures.
  • 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.
  • It is non-toxic.

Thermoplastic ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer.

This is a thermoplastic that contains a medium proportion of vinyl acetate; approximately 30%.

It contains some properties of rubber or plasticized polyvinyl chloride.

Some of the properties include:

  • It is tough.
  • Flexible under low temperatures.
  • It is resistant to corrosion.

Ethylene-vinyl acetate rubber.

This is a copolymer of ethylene-vinyl acetate that contains 60% or more vinyl acetate.

It has elastomeric properties which make it have the same features as rubber.

The properties of ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer include:

  • It is soft and flexible.
  • It has good gloss and clarity.
  • It is tough under low temperatures.
  • It is resistant to cracking.
  • It is waterproof.
  • It is resistant to UV radiation.
  • It contains a vinegar-like smell.

Properties of ethylene-vinyl acetate constituents.

As mentioned earlier, ethylene-vinyl acetate is made up of ethylene and vinyl acetate.

The properties of ethylene-vinyl acetate depend on the properties of these constituents.

Ethylene.

Ethylene is a gaseous hydrocarbon molecule found in the alkene group. It has a chemical formula of C2H4.

It is the most produced organic compound in industries. It is also ethene gas.

Properties of ethylene gas.

They include the following:

  • It is a colorless and odorless gas.
  • It is soluble in organic solvents such as alcohol and diethyl ether.
  • It is non-saturated.

Ethylene gas is used in many chemicals reactions which include the following:

  • Polymerization.
  • Oxidation.
  • Halogenation.
  • Hydrohalogenation.
  • Hydration.
  • Oligomerization.
  • Alkylation.
  • Hydroformylation.

Ethylene is also used to produce compounds such as :

  • Ethylene-vinyl acetate.
  • Ethylene oxide.
  • Ethylene dichloride.
  • Ethylbenzene.
  • Polyethylene.

Vinyl acetate.

This is an organic compound with the following formula.

CH3CO2CH=CH2

Vinyl is the main precursor used in making polyvinyl acetate and ethylene-vinyl acetate.

Vinyl acetate is made from a reaction of ethylene gas, acetic (ethanoic) acid, and oxygen in the presence of a palladium catalyst.

Other compounds which are made for vinyl acetate include:

  • Vinyl acetate-acrylic acid.
  • Polyvinyl chloride acetate.
  • Polyvinyl pyrrolidone.

Applications of ethylene-vinyl acetate.

Having looked at the constituents of ethylene-vinyl acetate and their uses and properties, let’s now look into the applications of ethylene-vinyl acetate.

  • Used in making hot melt adhesives.
  • It is used in plastic wraps as a clinginess-enhancing additive.
  • In making craft-foam sheets.
  • Used in making drug-delivery devices.
  • It is used as padding in bicycle saddles, ski boots, hockey pads, boxing gloves, and helmets.
  • It is used as a shock absorber in sport’s shoes.
  • It is used in manufacturing floats for fishing gear.
  • Its copolymers are used as adhesives in packaging and bookbinding.

Is ethylene-vinyl acetate eco-friendly?

Yes, ethylene-vinyl acetate is eco-friendly because it does not produce any toxic chemicals in the environment.

It is 100% thermal recyclable because it does not produce toxic elements during combustion.

According to a study, although ethylene-vinyl acetate does not undergo biodegradation, it does not pose any threat to the environment.

But because it is non-biodegradable, it can cause landfills, and hence its recycling should be highly emphasized.

Is ethylene-vinyl acetate toxic?

No, ethylene-vinyl acetate does not produce any toxic chemicals even after ingestion, although it should not be ingested.

It is safer as compared to polyvinyl chloride because it does not release poisonous chlorine gas.

Conclusion.

This article has answered the question of ethylene-vinyl acetate biodegradability.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • The uses of ethylene-vinyl acetate.
  • The constituents of ethylene-vinyl acetate and their properties and uses 
  • The eco-friendliness of ethylene-vinyl acetate.
  • The biodegradation process.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is ethylene-vinyl acetate biodegradable?

Is ethylene-vinyl acetate environmentally friendly?

Yes, ethylene-vinyl acetate is considered to be environmentally friendly because it does not contain chlorides or any other heavy metals which are toxic to the environment.

Ethylene-vinyl acetate is also recyclable and therefore its effects on the environment can be easily controlled.

Is EVA recyclable?

Yes, ethylene-vinyl acetate is 100% recyclable through the thermal recycling process.

Is EVA considered plastic?

Yes, ethylene-vinyl acetate is a thermoplastic that contains similar properties to low-density polyethylene.

It is considered a safer option than polyvinyl chloride because it does not contain chlorides which produce toxic chlorine gas.

Citations.

Cheila. GM, Maria Ines. BT ( August 1997). Polymer Degradation and stability: Study of recycling and biodegradability of ethylene-co-vinyl acetate rejected by thermal analysis. pg 183-186.

Retrieved from:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014139109600184X

Savanna Stanfield. ( 30th November 2021). Is EVA Eco-Friendly? 14 facts you should know( +3 alternatives).

Retrieved from:

https://citizensustainable.com/eva-recyclable/

Meng, Tingzhu Teresa (2014). “Volatile organic compounds of polyethylene vinyl acetate plastic are toxic to living organisms”. The Journal of Toxicological Sciences. 39 (5): 795–802. doi:10.2131/jts.39.795

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