Can Additives Really Make Plastic Biodegradable?

Biodegradable additives are known for providing microbes the chemical ability they need to body slam plastics into annihilation. These additives, which are also referred to as degradation initiators, consist of very complex chemical components.

These additives just make up less than one percent of the finished product, once that they are blended with the plastic. The plastic looks, smells and feels the same as before. Thus, you wouldn’t know that there is a difference, just upon the moment until it enters the landfill. Then the additives are supposed to start stepping into action. A landfill contains the right combination of moisture and various microbes that can exploit the additive in the plastic. The additives will as well have the same biodegrading effect outside of a landfill, but the process will take longer.

The process doesn’t start directly. Some microbes are attracted to the additive in the plastic produce. These microbes create a fissure in the plastic. More and more microbes arrive at the crack. The combinations of acids and enzymes, along with water, eventually allows them to break down the huge plastic polymers into smaller and smaller bits.

A new study carried out at Michigan State University, concluded that the additives which were supposed to promote the biodegradation of plastics do not do their designated job properly. There were a lot of questions and uncertainties about the use of additives. That’s why the research group carried out a number of experiments over a period of three years to evaluate the effect of biodegradation of Polyethylene (PE) and Polyethylene Terephthalate PET is the plastic that is most commonly used in disposable plastic bottles for example.

The study went on to compare different biodegradation-promoting additives as well as different types of plastics in a multitude of environments. The result of the research was that none of the different additives that underwent testing actually accelerated or even facilitated the process of biodegrading, in any of the exposed environments. There was no evidence that these additives either promoted or enhanced biodegradation of PE or PET polymers.

There are also compostable plastics, or also called Bioplastics. The most commonly used one is PLA. They are produced from natural materials such as corn starch, oils or vegetable fats. We at Swedbrand love to use these so-called Bioplastics for our take-away packaging. Adding Chemicals to render plastic biodegradable doesn’t make any sense and ends up just adding more pollutants to the environment. Don’t be fooled!