Is LDPE biodegradable? (7 properties)

This blog will explore the biodegradability status of LDPE. Other covered aspects rummaged will be: 

  • What is LDPE?
  • What category of plastics LDPE falls to?
  • What are the other types of plastics?
  • What are the environmental impacts of LDPE?
  • What is biodegradation?
  • Is LDPE biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Is LDPE biodegradable?

No, LDPE is not biodegradable. LDPE is also a fossil fuel derivative and therefore it is not biodegradable. The degradation time of LDPE under normal conditions is considered to be between 500 to 1000 years. 

LDPE comes with properties such as strength, chemical and water resistance. Its most common use is the use of plastic bags. 

Biodegradation is the breakdown of waste into simpler substances by various drivers of life. Microbes, bacteria, fungi, algae, and decomposers are the most common drivers that cause biodegradation. 

Other important elements that are essential to the equation of biodegradability are aeration, sunlight, temperature, pressure, and other external conditions. 

What is LDPE? (7 properties) 

LDPE expands to Low-Density Polyethylene. It is a type of plastic. By the word plastic, you may recall that plastics are the most commonly used commercial products. However, with the rising consumerism and environmental degradation, it also has become important to relate the two. 

The world today sees many unprecedented environmental challenges in the form of abnormal weather patterns, rising global temperatures, and great devastation of substantiality that is caused by damage to the environment. 

In such dire circumstances, it has become really important to assess what is the environmental impact of everything that we do and everything that we consume. 

When it comes to the environmental impacts, the case of plastics stands out a bit more than others. This is mainly because there are a lot of known disadvantages of plastics on the environment and human health. 

Further deliberations and details will be covered in the coming sections of the blog. Reclining back to our main topic, LDPE is a type of plastic. 

LDPE may have the following properties: 

  • Toughness
  • Mechanical strength
  • Resistance against chemicals 
  • Workability 
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Easy to be processed 
  • Moisture resistance 

Owing to these properties, LDPE is mainly used for different types of bottles, plastic bags, containers, and lab equipment. It is argued that the most significant application of LDPE is plastic bags. 

What category of plastics LDPE falls to?

The applications and usability of plastics are so fervent that plastics are divided into seven main classes or categories. There is a numbering system that is employed to track and label different types of plastics. This is done to segregate the plastics based on their uses and effects. 

The primary reason behind the numbering system is to disclose the nature and real story associated with plastics. 

Not all plastics are great for the environment and human health. Some plastics are more harmful to human health while some plastics are not reusable at all. 

Therefore, it is important to know as a consumer and a manufacturer what kind of plastics is and can be used to make different products so that sustainable choices can be made. 

The different numbers are labelled in triangles that are made out of arrows. You can find these labels on plastic products. 

For example, let us say that you have to shop for a plastic bottle. You get to the store and see different plastic bottles. Some are labelled with 1, some with 3 and some with 5. 

These labels are to let you make conscious choices because with little awareness it is easy to know that label 1 means that the bottles are made from PET. 

However, labels 3 and 5 imply that bottles are made from PVC and PP respectively. The last two are not recyclable and hence will become non-biodegradable waste eventually. 

However, PET is regarded as a safer option and it can also be recycled. Hence, it falls upon you as a consumer to know which bottle to choose (by digging into the type of plastic used for it and its impact on the environment and human health). 

What are the other types of plastics?

Plastics are found everywhere. Most commercial consumer products make use of plastics because of the utilitarian value given off by plastics. 

It is argued that the common use of plastics is because of the fact that plastics are cheap yet this does not affect the usability factor rendered by plastics. 

Owing to the diverse use and applications of plastics, there are seven categories of plastics. The categories are there so that plastics may be segregated and studied well. The categories of plastics are: 

  • PET 
  • HDPE
  • PP
  • PVC
  • PS
  • Other

These categories link to the discrete use and qualities of plastics. You may wonder what is the last category of plastics. This category is reserved for new types of plastics. 

Common examples of the seventh category can be DNA plastics and bioplastics. These will also be detailed in the coming sections of the article.

Among the remaining categories, it is generally regarded that HDPE, PP, and PET are relatively safer and do not make use of harmful chemicals and materials. 

However, this is not the case for the remaining categories. There may be harmful chemicals or elements used to make such plastics (for example LDPE). An example can be BPA.

Bisphenol-A is an organic compound which is thought to disrupt hormones and cause other medical complications such as cancer or irritations. 

Among the types of plastics, the seventh category is regarded as the safest and the least damaging to the environment. This is mainly because plastics in the seventh category are made from natural, plant-based materials rather than fossil fuel derivatives. 

What are the environmental impacts caused by LDPE?

LDPE is regarded as a non-biodegradable product because it is made from fossil fuel derivatives. This process does not happen at the expense of non-renewable resources but it also leads to the emission of harmful gases. 

When non-renewable resources are used, there is an emission of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, ethylene et cetera are responsible for causing a lot of damage to the environment. 

It is argued that the most brutal impact of greenhouse gases is the cause of global warming. Global warming is a phenomenon in which the global temperature of the earth is increased. 

The Earth relies on a very delicate and meticulous system and even the tiniest disruption will lead to many problems and anomalies. That is why global warming leads to a plethora of other problems as well that include: 

  • Loss of life
  • Species endangerment
  • Unprecedented weather patterns
  • Pollution
  • Disruption of ecosystems 
  • Infiltrations into the food chains 
  • Leaching
  • Eutrophication

These are some of the examples to assert the fact that there is a deep level of coherence and connection on Earth. This means that disruption in one aspect will lead to disturbance in other aspects as well. 

Another major impact caused by LDPE is that it is a non-biodegradable waste. This means that it will remain in landfill or the environment for many years. 

The problem of waste accumulation is a major one because already there is a grave amount of waste produced. If the waste generation is not controlled, it will lead to the decapacitation of waste management systems. 

The effects of plastics are not only restricted to the environment. The impacts of plastics are also reciprocated on human health as well. There are countless known impacts of plastics on human health. 

Common examples will be: 

  • Damage to skin 
  • Cancer 
  • Eye diseases
  • Hormonal disruption 
  • Neuro Complications 
  • Developmental issues
  • Damage to the foetus 
  • Heart & lung diseases

It is argued that the case of LDPE is also very similar. It is known to cause human-related complications such as cancers, infertility, autism, neurodevelopmental disorders, and infertility. 

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the breakdown of waste into simpler substances by various drivers of life. Microbes, bacteria, fungi, algae, and decomposers are the most common drivers that cause biodegradation. 

Other important elements that are essential to the equation of biodegradability are aeration, sunlight, temperature, pressure, and other external conditions. 

Recent approaches to biodegradation have also enabled scientists to employ lab-based enzymes and chemicals to achieve the process of biodegradation. 

You may wonder why biodegradation is essential. It is important because it leads to reduced waste generation and accumulation. 

This ensures that life and the environment are saved from the harmful and degradative effects of biodegradation. This will also enable better waste management because if waste management is facilitated, there will be decreased consumption of energy and resources. 

Based on biodegradability, waste may be divided into two categories. These are 

  • Biodegradable waste
  • Non-biodegradable waste 

Examples of biodegradable waste include crops, plants, dead animals, manure, sewage, bioplastics, and natural fabrics. These may degrade in some days or some months. 

Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include synthetic plastics, epoxies, synthetic dyes, and synthetic fabrics like acrylic fabrics. These substances may remain in landfills for hundreds of years. 

For example, synthetic plastics may degrade in more than a thousand years while also causing other environmental problems such as global warming, weather anomalies et cetera. 

Is LDPE biodegradable?

It can be said that for a product to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural sources rather than non-natural sources. 

Common examples of materials that are biodegradable include plant waste, animal waste, natural fabrics et cetera. 

However, it has been detailed that most plastics are not made from natural sources. They are made from fossil fuel derivatives and are synthesised in the lab. 

LDPE is also a fossil fuel derivative and therefore it is not biodegradable. The degradation time of LDPE under normal conditions is considered to be between 500 to 1000 years. 

However, recent research shows that under a controlled environment, LDPE may degrade as early as 80 days by the action of microalga. The study gives redefined hopes for the alleviation of problems caused by non-biodegradable waste. 

Conclusion 

It is concluded that plastics are given different classes of plastics that are divided based on their uses and effects. 

LDPE comes with properties such as strength, chemical and water resistance. Its most common use is the use of plastic bags. 

Biodegradation is the breakdown of waste into simpler substances by various drivers of life. Microbes, bacteria, fungi, algae, and decomposers are the most common drivers that cause biodegradation. 

Other important elements that are essential to the equation of biodegradability are aeration, sunlight, temperature, pressure, and other external conditions. 

LDPE is also a fossil fuel derivative and therefore it is not biodegradable. The degradation time of LDPE under normal conditions is considered to be between 500 to 1000 years. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is LDPE biodegradable?

How long does LDPE take to degrade?

LDPE is also a fossil fuel derivative and therefore it is not biodegradable. It may take between 500 to 1000 years to degrade under natural conditions. 

References

  • Sivan, A. (2011). New perspectives in plastic biodegradation. Current opinion in biotechnology, 22(3), 422-426.
  • Zheng, Y., Yanful, E. K., & Bassi, A. S. (2005). A review of plastic waste biodegradation. Critical reviews in biotechnology, 25(4), 243-250.
  • Han, J., Guo, Y., Wang, H., Zhang, K., & Yang, D. (2021). Sustainable Bioplastic Made from Biomass DNA and Ionomers. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 143(46), 19486-19497.
  • Pastore, C. (2021). DNA plastic. Nature Nanotechnology, 16(12), 1302-1302.
  • Tokiwa, Y., Calabia, B. P., Ugwu, C. U., & Aiba, S. (2009). Biodegradability of plastics. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(9), 3722-3742.
  • Hopewell, J., Dvorak, R., & Kosior, E. (2009). Plastics recycling: challenges and opportunities. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2115-2126.
  • Sanniyasi, E., Gopal, R. K., Gunasekar, D. K., & Raj, P. P. (2021). Biodegradation of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) sheet by microalga, Uronema africanum Borge. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1-33.

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