What are examples of biodegradable polymers? (9 examples) 

The article will discuss examples of biodegradable polymers. Other details covered would include:

  • Introduction and examples of biodegradable polymers.
  • Difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable polymers.
  • Disposal options for biodegradable polymers. 

What are examples of biodegradable polymers? 

Biodegradable polymers are substances that are naturally derived and therefore, can be degraded by the action of microbes. Examples include food waste, natural fibres, cotton, organic waste, waste from slaughterhouses et cetera. 

As a general rule of thumb, biodegradable substances contribute less to environmental problems since they are more likely to be natural, organic, compostable, and easily recycled. 

As regards disposal, the best option for biodegradable substances is composting (if they can be) while the best option for non-biodegradable substances is recycling as this prevents the negative effects of the said substances on the environment. 

What are biodegradable polymers?

Biodegradable polymers are materials that can be broken down into simpler materials by the action of microbes. This leads to negation in polymer accumulation and generation. 

Biodegradation is derived from two different words. Bio and degradation. Bio means life and degradation means breakdown. When it comes to biodegradation, there are some general rules of thumb. One of them is that natural and organic materials are more prone to biodegradation because they offer the necessary nutrients that the microbes can ingest as food. 

The microbes do require something in return and that is their food in the form of nutritional contents. This is the primary factor that discerns biodegradable material from non-biodegradable material. 

What are some examples of biodegradable polymers? (7 examples) 

Let us also explore some of the examples of biodegradable polymers to further clarify our understanding of what biodegradable materials are. Some of the common examples of biodegradable polymers include:

  • Manure 
  • Agricultural polymers 
  • Food waste 
  • Plant waste 
  • Natural fibres like cotton or silk 
  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables 

As you can assess, most examples of biodegradable polymers are the everyday objects and materials that we possess and normally use. 

Are biodegradable polymers better than non-biodegradable polymers?

The stance is clear. Biodegradable polymers is more eco-friendly and sustainable as compared to non-biodegradable polymers because of the following reasons:

  • Biodegradable polymers are naturally-derived 
  • Biodegradable polymers contribute less to environmental anomalies 
  • Biodegradable polymers contribute less to waste accumulation 
  • Depletion of non-renewable resources 

Effect on resources 

There is a general understanding that non-biodegradable polymers are mostly sourced from non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and petroleum. This is another factor that makes non-biodegradable polymers unsustainable. 

This is said because not only do non-biodegradable polymers contribute to the depletion of non-renewable resources, but they also lead to emissions of harmful gases into the atmosphere that results in environmental problems discussed above (including global warming, pollution, smog formation, deforestation et cetera). 

Environmental impact

On the contrary, non-biodegradable materials involve the use of synthetic materials, chemicals, and derivatives of fossil fuels. 

This leads to environmental anomalies such as greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, depletion of non-renewable resources, pollution, and deforestation– to name a few. 

Naturally-driven 

Biodegradable polymers are regarded as more sustainable than non-biodegradable polymers because of some basic reasons. The most prominent one is that biodegradable materials or polymers are made from natural materials whereas this factor is absent in non-biodegradable materials. 

Waste paradigm 

Another major reason why biodegradable polymers are claimed to be more sustainable is that they do not contribute to the waste problem since the polymers will degrade readily (from a week to some months to the max). 

Whereas, in the case of non-biodegradable materials, these materials will persist for indefinite periods. This will give rise to the waste problem since we already face grave situations when it comes to waste. 

As per the stats, the current waste generation stands at 2 billion tons. This is expected to rise up to 3 billion tons in the years to come. This means that an average person does (or will) make about 5 kgs of polymers per day. 

It would not be wrong to say that non-biodegradable materials have a significant role to play in a situation like this. 

Conclusion 

It is concluded that biodegradable polymers are substances that are naturally derived and therefore, can be degraded by the action of microbes. Examples include food waste, natural fibres, cotton, organic waste, waste from slaughterhouses et cetera. 

As a general rule of thumb, biodegradable substances contribute less to environmental problems since they are more likely to be natural, organic, compostable, and easily recycled. 

As regards disposal, the best option for biodegradable substances is composting (if they can be) while the best option for non-biodegradable substances is recycling as this prevents the negative effects of the said substances on the environment. 

References 

  • Sonesson, U., Björklund, A., Carlsson, M., & Dalemo, M. (2000). Environmental and economic analysis of management systems for biodegradable polymers. Resources, conservation and recycling, 28(1-2), 29-53.
  • Bulkeley, H., & Askins, K. (2009). polymers interfaces: biodegradable polymers, municipal policy and everyday practice. Geographical Journal, 175(4), 251-260.
  • Velvizhi, G., Shanthakumar, S., Das, B., Pugazhendhi, A., Priya, T. S., Ashok, B., … & Karthick, C. (2020). Biodegradable and non-biodegradable fraction of municipal solid polymers for multifaceted applications through a closed loop integrated refinery platform: Paving a path towards the circular economy. Science of the Total Environment, 731, 138049.
  • 5 simple steps for backyard composting. Retrieved from: https://www.recology.com/recology-king-county/5-simple-steps-for-backyard-compost-2/
  • US EPA. Composting at home. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

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