Is EVA biodegradable? (11 properties of EVA) 

In this article, it shall be seen whether EVA is biodegradable or not. Other aspects covered would be: 

  • What is biodegradability?
  • How is waste classified based on biodegradability?
  • What is EVA?
  • How is EVA made?
  • Are there any green alternatives to EVA?
  • FAQs

Is EVA biodegradable?

No, conventional EVA is not biodegradable. EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate) is a copolymer made from ethylene and vinyl acetate. Conventional EVA is made from plastics (fossil-based) and hence is not biodegradable. 

Other than being non-biodegradable, EVA also causes numerous negative effects on life and the environment. 

However, there is also biobased EVA made from bioplastics. This EVA is sourced from plant-based materials such as sugar cane or cornstarch. Because natural products are used to make biobased EVA, it is both biodegradable and recyclable. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability can be explained as the ability to be degraded in nature so that complex substances can be converted into simpler substances so that they may become a part of nature. 

Biodegradability is the earth’s natural way to discard and dispose of. Microbes such as bacteria and other decomposers are the main drivers of this degradation process. 

If the natural process of biodegradation is not happening, then it means that wastes are produced and not disposed of. Imagine what would happen if all the waste of your home is kept inside and not thrown in the dust bin?

It will pollute your house from the inside, right? The same would happen if the natural process of biodegradation does not happen for some reason. However, this hypothetical metaphor does have some ground reality, unfortunately.

Not all the material produced is able to biodegrade in nature. Most man-made synthetic materials (such as polymers) do not gel well with the microbes’ ability to degrade and thus these substances remain in the environment causing unfathomable pollution and problems. 

With the human population swiftly advancing to cross the carrying capacity of the earth, the management of waste is becoming more difficult than ever. That is why the checklist of if any substance is biodegradable or not is of high importance because otherwise, there is no way out. 

To put things into perspective, take an example of non-biodegradable plastics. These plastics affect hundreds of species, endangering them. They also stem medical complications of all severities. The environmental impacts of plastics are also notoriously well known. 

How is waste classified based on biodegradability?

Based on the concept and edifice of biodegradability, wastes can largely be classified into two classes. One type of waste is that which can be degraded while the second type is that which can not be degraded. 

The general understanding related to this concept is that natural products are easily and readily degraded within a short span of time. That is because they contain no artificial or synthetic materials. 

Whereas, synthetic or artificial materials, which usually are man-made, can not be degraded readily and hence may require hundreds of years to degrade in the environment. This increased duration causes strain on the environment which affects life nearby. 

The tragedy today is that non-biodegradable wastes despite being dangerous to the environment and life nearby are preferred by the consumer because of their benefits and convenience of use. 

A common example can be the use of plastic bags in consumer markets. The world was introduced to the detrimental effects of plastic bags a long time ago yet even after that, plastic bags are still used because they are cheap and of good use. 

However, the situation is slowly changing. There is an increased trend toward biodegradable wastes by consumers, especially in developed regions. Other than that, many laws and policies are also being created and implemented to lessen the use of non-biodegradable wastes. 

Technological advances are also advocating in favour of biodegradable wastes by creating products from natural materials. A good example can be biodegradable bags or perhaps biodegradable packaging materials. 

Examples of biodegradable products include: 

  • Food waste
  • Human waste 
  • Manure Sewage 
  • Hospital waste 
  • Dead animals & Plants 
  • Waste from slaughterhouse 
  • Toilet paper

Examples of non-biodegradable products include: 

  • Plastics 
  • Hazardous substances
  • Pesticides
  • Fertilisers
  • E-wastes
  • Rubbers
  • Polymers
  • Shopping bags 
  • Packaging materials
  • Plastic bottles 
  • Nuclear Wastes

These non-biodegradable waste may persist in the environment for hundreds of years and can be linked to a plethora of negative impacts on human health and the environment. Some of them are cited below as an example: 

  • Global warming
  • Pollution
  • Droughts
  • Deforestation
  • Soil erosion 
  • Species endangerment
  • Destruction of habitats 
  • Loss of life
  • Effects on food chains
  • Destruction of crops 
  • Loss of yield
  • Food shortage & security issues

What is EVA? (11 properties of EVA) 

After a detailed introduction to the concept and process of biodegradability, let us explore what is EVA. 

EVA expands to Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate. EVA is a copolymer resin which is used in a number of industrial applications because of its specific properties. 

EVA has the following properties that make it of good and versatile use. 

  • Flexibility
  • Strength 
  • Resilience 
  • Good functioning at lower temperatures 
  • UV radiation resistance 
  • Elasticity 
  • Chemical resistance 
  • High friction coefficient 
  • High gloss
  • Good clarity 
  • Water-proof properties

EVA has both flexible properties but can also be processed like other thermo polymers. It has a vinegar odour to it. 

Owing to these properties, EVA is primarily used in adhesives, sealants, and coating. Other uses and applications of EVA may be: 

  • Biomedical engineering 
  • Drug delivery service
  • Sports equipment (for padding)
  • Shock absorber in shoes
  • Fishing gear
  • Used in photovoltaics products 
  • Packaging
  • Textile 
  • Artificial flowers
  • Indoor paints 
  • Orthotics
  • HEPA filters 
  • Shoe insoles 

As it can be seen that the physical properties of EVA make it a suitable candidate to be used in a plethora of applications that belong to multiple industries and sectors. 

How is EVA made?

EVA or Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate is a copolymer of ethylene and vinyl-acetate monomers. The weight of vinyl-acetate varies  between 10-40% while the remaining is ethylene. This dynamic is because of the applications that EVA might be used for. 

Ethylene-Vinyl acetate is made by the copolymerisation of ethylene and vinyl acetate. This process happens under pressure and by the application of free radical catalysts. 

As mentioned, vinyl-acetate weight may vary between 10-50% depending upon the grade that is to be produced by the copolymer. 

The making of the copolymer is done to obtain multiple qualities of distinct monomers in a single product. This way, a single product can be used to give off multiple functions. This is good in both utilitarian and economical aspects. 

EVA copolymer gives both the properties of ethylene and vinyl acetate. EVA yields better transparency, oil resistance, grease resistance, and is more permeable to gases. EVA is both elastic and flexible while also being of good strength and resistance. 

Owing to these properties, EVA is used in sectors and products such as adhesives, packaging, wire coating, drum liners, and carpet backing. 

Is EVA biodegradable?

It has been seen that for a product to be biodegradable, it must be natural or produced from natural materials. Various examples of biodegradable products have also been discussed like plant-based substances or waste from crops. 

The structure, properties and applications of EVA have also been discussed. It is seen that EVA is not made from natural substances. Rather, EVA is made from man-made substances which are ethylene and vinyl acetate. 

Therefore, it is finalised that EVA is not biodegradable and may persist in the environment for hundreds of years. 

EVA is a copolymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate. Both ethylene and vinyl acetate are linked to numerous health and environmental hazards. This implies that other being non-biodegradable, EVA also is bad for the environment and human health. 

The negative effects associated with EVA are: 

  • Greenhouse gas emissions 
  • Acidification 
  • Eco-toxicity 
  • Global warming
  • Ozone depletion 
  • Unprecedented weather patterns
  • Flood
  • Droughts 
  • Deforestation 
  • Destruction of ecosystem
  • Loss of life
  • Soil toxicity 
  • Species endangerment 

Among the health risk associated with EVA, there are: 

  • Irritation to the use
  • Skin allergies
  • Lungs infection 
  • Cancer
  • Neurological complications 
  • Throat issues
  • Dizziness 
  • Unconsciousness 

In the light of these effects, it is speculated that other than being non-biodegradable, EVA is harmful and hazardous to the environment and human health. 

Are there any green alternatives to EVA?

With the advent of industrialization, urbanisation and consumerism, there is unprecedented growth in the consumption of commercial products. 

These commercial products have a key role in making our lives better and easier. Most of the hefty tasks are done by these commercial products. 

Other than being of good utilitarian value, these products are also of good economical value. They are good to use and easy on the budget. 

However, with the increased inclination toward science and environmental studies, it is noted that there is a hidden cost to be paid by the use of these commercial products. This cost is our environment and human health. 

With increasing awareness, it was found that many commercially used products had grave impacts on the environment and human health. Plastics can be a very good example. 

Plastics were considered to be of great use because they were cheap and of good use. But studies found that the use of plastics is linked to numerous negative impacts on life and the environment. 

Plastics’ use is linked to affect as many as 800 species of animals on land and in oceans. As these negative impacts were excavated, the world at large started to shift towards green alternatives. 

Biobased plastics were introduced, for example, which were a replacement for fossil-based plastics. 

Based on this story, it can be speculated that just like plastics, there have to be green alternatives to EVA as well. And the hero of this story is Biodegradable EVA

These biobased EVA are made from bioplastics instead of conventional plastics and that is why these biobased EVA are both biodegradable and recyclable. The common materials used to make bioplastics are sugar cane and corn starch.

Conclusion

It is concluded that EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate) is a copolymer made from ethylene and vinyl acetate. Conventional EVA is made from plastics (fossil-based) and hence is not biodegradable. 

Other than being non-biodegradable, EVA also causes numerous negative effects on life and the environment. 

However, there is also biobased EVA made from bioplastics. This EVA is sourced from plant-based materials such as sugar cane or cornstarch. Because natural products are used to make biobased EVA, it is both biodegradable and recyclable. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is EVA biodegradable?

What materials are used in biobased EVA?

Biobased EVA is made from bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from plant-based products such as corn starch or sugar cane. 

Does biobased EVA give different properties?

No, biobased EVA gives the same properties as its fossil-based counterpart. There is no compromise in quality here. 

Reference

  • Schneider, C., Langer, R., Loveday, D., & Hair, D. (2017). Applications of ethylene vinyl acetate copolymers (EVA) in drug delivery systems. Journal of Controlled Release, 262, 284-295.
  • Henderson, A. M. (1993). Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) copolymers: a general review. IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine, 9(1), 30-38.
  • Dulsang, N., Kasemsiri, P., Posi, P., Hiziroglu, S., & Chindaprasirt, P. (2016). Characterization of an environment-friendly lightweight concrete containing ethyl vinyl acetate waste. Materials & Design, 96, 350-356.
  • Plastics Europe. I am green EVA & Allbirds. Retrieved from: https://plasticseurope.org/case-studies/im-greentm-eva-allbirds/

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