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Biodegradability of bioplastics: prenormative research, biorecycling and ecological impacts

Exploitable results

Microorganisms which are able to degrade biodegradable plastics have been isolated and identified. They have been employed in the design of standardized, rapid in vitro tests for the assessment of the biodegradability of a range of biodegradable plastics, such as polyhydroxyalkanoates, polycaprolactone and polycaprolactone based plastics (MaterBi), other synthetic polyesters (Bionolle) and polyurethanes.
There is increasing consumer and legal pressures for an increase in the use of biodegradable (bioplastic) packaging materials in the European Union. These have the advantage that they can be composted without contaminating the final product with inert residues, while discarded material will decay rather than leaving unsightly semi-permanent litter on the beach or on horticultural holdings, for example. However, the solution to problems of disposal, litter and persistence is not simple. The term biodegradable has been applied to many plastics, of varying chemical composition and biological stability. Where plastics do degrade, they will provide substrates for microbial growth and require oxygen, which can affect local ecology. The project were addressed these aspects, as well as evaluate methods for the biorecycling of bioplastic waste. In particular methods suitable for assessing the biodegradability of plastics derived from biological raw materials were developed and used to devise standard test systems.