Learning: Biodegradability & Bio-based
Biodegradability versus bio-based - what is the difference?
If you have ever wondered what the difference is between the terms biodegradability and bio-based, our video will explain.
What is biodegradability?
This video from our CHAMPION webinar explains the key aspects of measuring biodegradability, common misconceptions and current issues, including standards, labelling and EU policy.
This video from our CHAMPION webinar shows some biodegradability results of common bio-based polymers and some CHAMPION products, showing our bio-polymers can be both high performance and biodegradable.
Definitions and further explanations
Industrial composting: the harmonized European standard EN 13432 defines the requirements for a product to be called industrially compostable. It consists of four criteria. Two criteria are related to degradation: biodegradation and disintegration, and the other two are related to environmental safety, which, in the case of composting, falls back to compost quality, including chemical analyses and ecotoxicity.
Biodegradation: microbial conversion of an organic, carbon-based compound to carbon dioxide, new microbial biomass and mineral salts under oxic conditions (i.e. oxygen is present) or to carbon dioxide, methane, new microbial biomass and mineral salts, under anoxic conditions (no oxygen is present).
Disintegration: disintegration or fragmentation is the degradation of a product on a physical, product level and is only the visual disappearance of a material.
Organic recycling of polymer products: the aerobic treatment (industrial composting) or anaerobic treatment (biogasification) of these products.
Both the rate and the maximum level of biodegradation of a specific material are determined by the environmental niche. These environmental niches can differ with regard to:
Moisture content: ranging from water to high-solids;
Oxygen availability: aerobic or anaerobic;
Temperature: e.g., high in industrial composting process, ambient to low in soil and water;
Types of micro-organisms: bacteria, fungi, or actinomycetes;
Concentration of micro-organisms: e.g., high in a wastewater treatment plant, low in the open sea;
A material that is biodegradable in one environment is not necessarily biodegradable in another environment. A typical example is the thermoplastic polyester polylactic acid (PLA), one of the most used biodegradable polymers. This material needs a thermal trigger before biodegradation starts and therefore it biodegrades well under industrial composting conditions, but not in soil or water without any modification. The figure below gives a general overview of the biodegradation of most applied biopolymers in relation to the environment.