Which among paper, DDT, plastic and aluminium is biodegradable? 

In this article, it shall be explored which material out of paper, DDT, plastic and aluminium is biodegradable. Other covered aspects would be: 

  • What is the impact of paper?
  • What is the impact of plastic?
  • What is the impact of DDT?
  • What is the impact of aluminium?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Which among paper, DDT, plastic and aluminium is biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Which among paper, DDT, plastic and aluminium is biodegradable?

Only paper is sourced from trees (a natural source). Therefore, paper can be regarded as biodegradable whereas, DDT, plastic and aluminium are non-biodegradable. 

Plastic may remain in the environment for up to a thousand years. The average range is from 200 years to 1000 years. However, bioplastics (made from DNA or plants) may degrade in 3 years and are regarded as biodegradable. 

DDT may take about 2-15 years to degrade while also leading to the bioaccumulation of harmful substances. 

Aluminium may take more than 250 years to degrade. Therefore, it can also be summarised that out of the present materials, plastics may take the most time to degrade followed by aluminium and then DDT.

Which among paper, DDT, plastic and aluminium is biodegradable?

The section will commence on the importance of biodegradability in order to build a stance on why there is a need to segregate waste based on biodegradability. 

Biodegradability can be explained as the process in which waste is converted into simpler substances so that those substances may become a part of nature again. 

With the increasing commercialisation, urbanisation, and industrialisation, there is a massive increase in consumer products and materials. 

It is incumbent to know there will be a varied impact of each material or product based on the raw materials and processes involved in the product making. 

For example, products made from natural materials will have fewer environmental impact as compared to products from non-natural sources because the latter will most likely be done at the cost of fossil fuels. 

Biodegradability is yet another filter to segregate waste because it is a parameter to know how much time waste will remain in the system. 

If waste will remain in the system for a longer period of time as it is in the case of non-biodegradable waste, there will be greater impacts on the environment and human health. 

However, if a product remains in the system for a shorter duration of time, there will be decreased impact on the environment and human health. 

In the case of non-biodegradable products, they may remain for as long as a thousand years, which may lead to partial or complete decapacitation of waste management endeavours. 

If waste is not managed, the whole world will become a stinky dustbin which will impact every single species and speed up the imminent armageddon many times. 

What is the impact of paper? (8 impacts) 

Paper is made from trees and this means that there will be cutting of trees. It is already suggested that human activities have resulted in a 50% decreased tree count. 

Trees are essential entities that save us from environmental anomalies and play their part in the sustainability and maintaining the greenness of the environment.

If there will be excessive tree cutting, there will be negative impacts on the environment including soil erosion, destruction of habitats, and disruption of ecosystems. Trees are the primary producers. They are the starting points of food webs and food chains. 

If trees are cut in grave amounts, there will be effects reciprocated at various levels of food chains. 

The production of paper also is energy and water consumptive. This leads to the emissions of GHGs which may cause global warming and other environment-related anomalies. The various impact and effects caused by global warming can be summarised in the following points: 

  • Rising sea levels
  • Soil erosion
  • Deforestation
  • Disruption of ecosystems 
  • Pollution
  • Psychological impacts
  • Ozone depletion 
  • Skin & eyes diseases 

Therefore, it is incumbent that paper manufacture is made in line with concepts of sustainability by cutting trees from controlled environments and making use of renewable resources rather than non-renewable resources.

What is the impact of plastic?

The following are the impacts caused by conventional plastics on life and the environment. There are 7 categories of plastics. 6 of them are based on fossil fuels derivatives and therefore, will have a significant impact. These can be: 

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

This is mainly because plastics are made from products that are derived from fossil fuels. When fossil fuels are used, it results in the increased emission of greenhouse gases. 

Greenhouse gases are gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane et cetera. These gases entrap the sun’s energy and lead to a phenomenon known as global warming. 

Global warming leads to other environmental issues such as increased global temperatures, effects on life, deforestation, melting of glaciers, increased melting of glaciers, increased flooding, and unprecedented weather conditions. 

The impacts of plastics are not only limited to the environment but are also manifested in humans. Common complications that arise as a result of plastic use and exposure include: 

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

What is the impact of DDT?

The use of DDT commenced somewhere in the 1940s, however, it was till the 1970s that the harmful effects of DDT were discovered. What was thought to be miraculous actually turned out to be malicious. 

It was found that DDT was a persistent pollutant because it had the capacity to remain in the living systems for many years. 

The harmful effects of DDT on water bodies were also well established after the initial discoveries post the 1970s period. 

It was found that DDT bioaccumulates in life for hundreds of years. The problem was not just with the accumulation, but also with the effects of DDT on life and the environment. 

DDT was linked to loss of life, thinning of eggshells, and even breeding failure. Thus, DDT was directly linked to harmful impacts on life and infiltrations into the food chains. 

The effects of DDT were not only limited to animal life. Human life was also severely affected by the impacts of DDT. 

These impacts included nausea, diarrhoea, irritation of the eyes, tremors, and convulsions. DDT was also discovered to be harmful to the environment. This was largely because DDT was figured to be a non-biodegradable pollutant which may persist for many years. 

DDT was also linked to the issues of bioaccumulation and medical complications. However, the effects of DDT were not just limited to the health; but were also reciprocated to the environment.

DDT, other than being non-biodegradable, also was found to affect aquatic and land ecosystems. 

The degradation rate of DDT in the aquatic environment is perceived to be even greater as compared to that of land, and thus posed a long-term threat to aquatic wildlife. 

DDT may be toxic for animals like stoneflies and crayfish while also infiltrating food chains and food webs at various levels. 

What is the impact of aluminium?

There are also various health and environment-related impacts of aluminium discovered by modern science. 

It is argued that aluminium may act as a toxic agent affecting various species of marine and aquatic life. 

There are health implications for aluminium as well as it may lead to a condition known as osmoregulatory failure which is marked by a decline in plasma and haemolymph. 

Aluminium is also a significant source of water and air pollution. The process of aluminium making is done at the expense of non-renewable resources that lead to the emission of greenhouse gases adding to the exacerbated effects such as global warming and related anomalies. 

Further, aluminium also will not degrade that readily and will remain in the environment or landfill systems for many years. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability is the breakdown of waste by the action of microbes. These microbes can be bacteria, fungi, decomposers, algae, and even protozoa. These microbes ensure that the waste generated does not accumulate and gets back to the system of life. 

That is because if there is waste accumulation, there will be negative effects of that waste accumulation which will impact all areas of our life. 

Therefore, biodegradability can also be regarded as nature’s dustbin. What is the role of a dustbin? To keep the waste segregated from the environment and make sure it does not pollute the environment. 

The role of biodegradability is very similar. Other than microbes, there are also external factors which play an important role in the biodegradation process. These may include aeration, sunlight, temperature and pressure. 

The time taken for a product or substance to biodegrade depends on the type of material and the external conditions. 

Based on biodegradability, there is a classification of waste. Waste may either be biodegradable or non-biodegradable. 

This is because not all waste can be degraded by the action of microbes. Most of the waste that is from synthetic materials produced at the expense of chemicals and human innovation is not biodegradable. 

It may take hundreds of years for such waste to degrade and therefore, it is termed non-biodegradable waste. Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include synthetic polymers, epoxies, synthetic fibres et cetera. 

These materials may take from a few hundred years to a thousand years to degrade. While they persist, they cause a plethora of problems to the environment and life. Examples of biodegradable waste may include plant waste, animal waste, manure et cetera. 

The impact of biodegradable waste on the environment is very less compared to non-biodegradable waste.

Which among paper, DDT, plastic and aluminium is biodegradable?

Based on the details mentioned in the previous sections, it is plausible to make the final assumption. 

Biodegradability is marked by the naturality of the source and raw materials. If a product is made from natural sources such as plants or trees, it will most likely be biodegradable. 

However, if a product is made at the expense of fossil fuel then chances are that the product is non-biodegradable. 

Among the present materials, only paper is sourced from trees (a natural source). Therefore, it is concluded that paper is biodegradable whereas, DDT, plastic and aluminium are non-biodegradable. 

Plastic may remain in the environment for up to a thousand years. The average range is from 200 years to 1000 years. However, bioplastics (made from DNA or plants) may degrade in 3 years and are regarded as biodegradable

DDT may take about 2-15 years to degrade while also leading to the bioaccumulation of harmful substances. 

Aluminium may take more than 250 years to degrade. Therefore, it can also be summarised that out of the present materials, plastics may take the most time to degrade followed by aluminium and then DDT.

Conclusion

Biodegradability can be explained as the process in which waste is converted into simpler substances so that those substances may become a part of nature again. 

Biodegradability is marked by the naturality of the source and raw materials. If a product is made from natural sources such as plants or trees, it will most likely be biodegradable. 

Only paper is sourced from trees (a natural source). Therefore, it is concluded that paper is biodegradable whereas, DDT, plastic and aluminium are non-biodegradable. 

Plastic may remain in the environment for up to a thousand years. The average range is from 200 years to 1000 years. However, bioplastics (made from DNA or plants) may degrade in 3 years and are regarded as biodegradable. 

DDT may take about 2-15 years to degrade while also leading to the bioaccumulation of harmful substances. 

Aluminium may take more than 250 years to degrade. Therefore, it can also be summarised that out of the present materials, plastics may take the most time to degrade followed by aluminium and then DDT.

Frequently Asked Questions: Which among paper, DDT, plastic and aluminium is biodegradable?

How much time does paper take to degrade?

Paper may degrade in about 2-6 weeks. Other than biodegradability, paper can also be made into compost which can be used as a natural fertiliser. 

Are all plastics non-biodegradable?

No, plastics made from plant-based materials and referred to as bioplastics or DNA plastics are biodegradable and may degrade in about 3 years. 

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.
  • Guenzi, W. D., & Beard, W. E. (1967). Anaerobic biodegradation of DDT to DDD in soil. Science, 156(3778), 1116-1117.
  • Yi, Y. A. N. G., Guo, Y. Q., Zhu, W. S., & Huang, J. B. (2019). Environmental impact assessment of China’s primary aluminum based on life cycle assessment. Transactions of Nonferrous Metals Society of China, 29(8), 1784-1792.
  • Jiang, B., Chen, C., Liang, Z., He, S., Kuang, Y., Song, J., … & Hu, L. (2020). Lignin as a wood‐inspired binder enabled strong, water stable, and biodegradable paper for plastic replacement. Advanced Functional Materials, 30(4), 1906307.

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