What are the three types of biodegradable?

baydee Biodegradable plastic bags

Biodegradability is a property that determines how quickly and easily a material can be broken down and decomposed by natural processes. It is an important concept in the context of sustainability and environmental protection, as biodegradable materials can be naturally recycled back into the environment, reducing waste and minimizing pollution.

There are three main types of biodegradable materials: organic, synthetic, and hybrid. Each type differs in its composition and breakdown process. In this article, we will explore these three types of biodegradables and their significance in sustainable development.

1. Organic Biodegradables: Organic materials are derived from living things or natural processes. They are composed of carbon-based compounds, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and natural polymers. Organic biodegradables include food waste, plant-based fibers (cotton, hemp, jute), wood, paper, and other natural materials.

When organic biodegradables are discarded, they are typically broken down by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, through a process called enzymatic degradation. These microorganisms digest the organic matter, releasing carbon dioxide, water, and other harmless byproducts. The time required for organic biodegradables to fully decompose varies depending on factors such as temperature, moisture, and availability of microorganisms.

Organic biodegradables play a crucial role in waste management, as they can be composted and used as nutrient-rich soil amendments. Composting is a controlled decomposition process that creates organic fertilizers, reducing the need for chemical-based alternatives and promoting sustainable agriculture.

2. Synthetic Biodegradables: Unlike organic biodegradables, synthetic materials are man-made and often derived from petroleum-based sources. Examples of synthetic biodegradables include some types of plastics, such as polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), and biodegradable polyesters.

Synthetic biodegradables are designed to mimic the properties of conventional plastics while being more environmentally friendly. They are engineered to have a similar lifespan as traditional plastics but can be broken down by natural processes once discarded.

The breakdown process of synthetic biodegradables usually involves exposure to heat, oxygen, and microorganisms. This process, known as aerobic biodegradation, results in the material breaking down into smaller fragments. These fragments are then further broken down by microorganisms into simpler compounds, eventually becoming part of the natural carbon cycle.

However, it is important to note that not all synthetic materials labeled as "biodegradable" are truly environmentally friendly. Some synthetic biodegradable plastics require very specific conditions, such as high temperatures or industrial composting facilities, to decompose properly. If these materials end up in conventional landfill environments, they may not biodegrade as expected, leading to potential environmental issues.

3. Hybrid Biodegradables: Hybrid biodegradables are materials that combine both organic and synthetic components. These materials aim to leverage the positive properties of each type while minimizing the negative aspects.

For example, some biodegradable packaging materials are made by combining organic fibers with a thin layer of synthetic polymer. This hybrid structure provides strength and moisture resistance while still being biodegradable.

Hybrid biodegradables are often used in applications where the pure organic materials might not suffice, such as food packaging, medical devices, or other products that require specific performance characteristics.

In conclusion, biodegradability is a valuable characteristic in materials that permits them to return to the natural environment without causing harm. Organic, synthetic, and hybrid biodegradables each have their unique properties and breakdown mechanisms. Understanding these types of biodegradables allows us to make more informed choices in favor of sustainable products and waste management practices. By promoting the use of biodegradable materials and proper disposal methods, we can contribute to a healthier and more sustainable future.


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