Is geotextile fabric biodegradable? (7 properties and 5 applications of Geotextiles)

This article shall answer the question of the biodegradability of geotextile fabric.

It shall also cover other areas such as:

  • The properties of geotextile fabric.
  • The components make up the geotextile fabric, their properties, and their applications.
  • The biodegradation process.
  • The eco-friendliness of geotextile fabric.

Is geotextile fabric biodegradable?

No, geotextile fabric is not biodegradable. Geotextile fabric is made from synthetic plastics that are non-biodegradable. Some plant-based geotextiles are biodegradable, although the use of biodegradable plant products to make geotextiles is still in its infancy stages.

Biodegradation is a natural process that occurs in organic matter such as plants and animal products. 

Synthetic compounds such as plastics are highly non-biodegradable because of a lack of bacteria or fungal enzymes which can break them down.

To better understand the process of biodegradation, let’s take a look at the different stages of biodegradation.

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi into the water, carbon dioxide, methane, and minerals. Heat energy is produced in the process.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct stages: biodeterioration, bio-fragmentation, and assimilation.

Biodeterioration is the first stage of biodegradation that involves abiotic factors such as light, UV radiation, and water to help in the weakening of the structure of organic substances.

Bio-fragmentation is the second stage that involves the physical breakdown of organic matter into small particles, this is due to the biodeterioration of the organic matter in the first stage.

Assimilation is the last stage of biodegradation. It involves the bacteria and the fungi taking up the minerals and small biomass produced by the previous two stages into their biological systems.

The minerals are used as a source of energy and carbon for the synthesis of cells and tissues.

Biodegradation can occur in the presence or absence of oxygen. When biodegradation involves the microorganisms using oxygen, the process is called aerobic biodegradation.

Aerobic biodegradation produces carbon dioxide, water, and small biomass. Heat energy is also produced in the process. Aerobic biodegradation occurs very fast but it is not very efficient.

When biodegradation occurs in the absence of oxygen, it is called anaerobic biodegradation. The products of anaerobic biodegradation include water, carbon dioxide, and small biomass. 

In addition to these products, methane gas is also produced. Heat energy is released during the breakdown. 

Anaerobic biodegradation occurs slowly but is more efficient than aerobic biodegradation.

Biodegradation can be affected by several factors such as water, light, temperatures, the bioavailability of a molecule, and pH.

Water helps in the biodeterioration and mechanical fragmentation of substances, increasing the surface area for microbial degradation.

Light emits radiations that help in the biodeterioration and bio-fragmentation of organic matter. UV radiation is the most effective radiation. 

Temperature affects the rate of biodegradation. Some microorganisms are very active in high temperatures while others are active in low temperatures. The optimum temperatures for the microorganisms increase the rate of biodegradation.

Bioavailability is the availability of an organic substance to microorganisms. Highly concentrated organic matter has high bioavailability and this increases the rate of biodegradation.

pH is the measure of acidity or basicity of a substance. Some microorganisms are very active in acidic pH while others are active in neutral or alkaline pH. Optimum pH increases the rate of biodegradation.

What is geotextile fabric?

Geotextile fabric is a permeable material that is used in railway lines, roads, or coastal lines to separate, filter, protect, reinforce or drain the soil.

Geotextile can be found in three distinct forms: woven, needle punched, and heat bonded 

Recently, the production of geotextile composites has commenced, the composites are used to make substances such as meshes and geogrids ( substances used to reinforce soil and other related materials).

Other members of geotextile fabric include:

  • Geonets.
  • Geogrids.
  • Geomembrane.
  • Geosynthetic clay liners.
  • Geo pipes.
  • Geocomposites.

Properties of geotextile fabric.

The following are the properties of geotextile fabric:

  • Geotextiles should be permeable. The permeability of geotextile fabric depends on the type of processing. Non-woven fabrics are less permeable than knitted fabrics.
  • It should have high stiffness.
  • It should have high tearing strength: the ability to withstand stress.
  • Should have high puncture strength: the ability to resist sharp impacts as an impulse.
  • Should have high fatigue strength: resistance to withstand loads applied.
  • Geotextile fabric should have good porosity.
  • Geotextile fabric should have a high transmissivity.

Applications of geotextile fabric.

Geotextile fabrics are highly used in the engineering sector where they are used in roads, embankments, retaining structures, airfields, railroads, dams, canals, reservoirs, protection of banks, engineering of coasts, and the construction of tubes

The following are the uses of geotextile fabric.

  • Geotextile fabrics can be used on lands to protect against soil erosion at steep slopes.
  • They are used to protect the upland coastal property from dune wave action and flooding.
  • They are used to improve the strength of the soil.
  • They can be used to protect fossil footprints to prevent their erosion.
  • During the demolition of structures, it is used together with steel wire to contain explosive debris.
  • They are used in Europe to cover glaciers, preventing their melting, therefore preventing flooding.

What materials is geotextile fabric made from?

Geotextile fabric can be made from different fabrics depending on the targeted use.

The most popular materials for geotextile fabric are synthetic plastics that include:

  • Polypropylene.
  • Polyester.
  • Nylon.
  • Polyethylene.
  • PVC.

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.

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.

Nylon.

This is a thermoplastic synthetic fiber made from petrochemical products, with the main monomer used being diamine acid.

It is one of the most used fabrics in industries today.

Properties of nylon.

Nylon has the following properties.

  • High abrasion resistance.
  • High tensile strength.
  • It is highly elastic.
  • High resistance to sunlight.
  • It is highly durable.
  • It is hygroscopic; it absorbs water.
  • It is less crystalline.
  • It is clear and transparent.
  • It can be dyed into different colors.
  • It has a high melting point.
  • It is less flammable.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE).

High-density polyethylene is a thermoplastic polymer of ethylene.

It is the most used plastic material both at home and in industries.

Properties of high-density polyethylene.

The following are the properties of high-density polyethylene:

  • It is resistant to corrosion.
  • It has a high strength-to-density ratio.
  • It has high tensile strength.
  • It can withstand high temperatures.
  • It is resistant to chemicals.
  • It is inert.
  • It is resistant to microbial degradation

Polyvinyl chloride.

Polyvinyl chloride is a synthetic plastic polymer. It is one of the most produced and used polymers in the world alongside polyethylene( polythene).

Polyvinyl chloride occurs in two forms.

Rigid PVC.

Soft or flexible PVC.

Rigid PVC.

This is the hard form of polyvinyl chloride polymer.

It is used to make plastic appliances such as plastic bottles, cups, plates, pipes, doors, and windows.

Flexible PVC.

This is the soft form of polyvinyl chloride.

It is acquired from rigid PVC by softening it using chemicals such as phthalates.

It is used to make insulators, signage, flooring, and leather.

PVC has a wide variety of uses, but the main challenge is that it is non-biodegradable and hence it pollutes the water bodies and soil.

Is geotextile eco-friendly?

Yes, geotextile fabric is eco-friendly. The advantages of geotextile fabric surpass the disadvantages and are therefore eco-friendly. 

Geotextiles prevent soil erosion and flooding by melting glaciers; these two processes are very harmful to the environment.

Materials that make geotextile fabric are usually synthetic plastics that may leach their microplastics into the water bodies causing pollution and affecting aquatic life.

According to a study, the use of organic fabrics to make geotextiles is taking shape. These fabrics are biodegradable and they minimize the effects of pollution even further.

Conclusion.

This article has answered the question of the biodegradability of geotextile fabric.

It has also covered areas such as:

  • Properties of geotextile fabric.
  • Applications of geotextile fabric.
  • Components of geotextile fabric.
  • Eco-friendliness of geotextile fabric.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is geotextile fabric biodegradable?

What is the material of geotextile?

Geotextiles are usually made from synthetic plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyester, nylon, and polyvinyl chloride.

What are the benefits of geotextiles?

Geotextiles are used to filtrate, separate, and reinforce soil, preventing such things as soil erosion and glacier flooding.

Is geotextile fabric permeable?

Yes, geotextile fabric is biodegradable. Different fabrics have different levels of permeability. Non-woven geotextile fabric contains low permeability as compared to knitted fabrics.

Citations.

Ashok Hakoo. (March 11, 2018). Woven and Non-woven Geotextile Fabric.

Retrieved from:

Riasat Zaman. ( February 5, 2018). Geotextiles and Geosynthetics: Properties of Geotextiles.

Retrieved from:

https://textilestudycenter.com/geotextiles-and-geosynthetics/

Morgan, Roy P.C.; Rickson, R.J. (2011). Slope Stabilization and Erosion Control: A Bioengineering Approach. London: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780419156307.

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