Biodegradation of compostable and oxodegradable plastic films by backyard composting and bioaugmentation

Research paper by Xochitl Quecholac-Piña, Mariel Anel García-Rivera, Rosa María Espinosa-Valdemar, Alethia Vázquez-Morillas, Margarita Beltrán-Villavicencio, Adriana de la Luz Cisneros-Ramos

Indexed on: 05 Apr '16Published on: 05 Apr '16Published in: Environmental Science and Pollution Research


Plastics are widely used in the production of short-life products, which are discarded producing an accumulation of these materials and problems due to their persistence in the environment and waste management systems. Degradable plastics (compostable, oxodegradable) have been presented as an alternative to decrease the negative effect of plastic waste. In this research, the feasibility of degrading a commercially available compostable film and oxodegradable polyethylene, with and without previous abiotic oxidation, is assessed in a home composting system. Reactors (200 L) were used to degrade the plastic films along with a mixture of organic food waste (50 %), mulch (25 %), and dry leaves (25 %), amended with yeast and a solution of brown sugar to increase the speed of the process. The presence of the plastic film did not affect the composting process, which showed an initial increase in temperature and typical profiles for moisture content, pH, with a final C/N of 17.4. After 57 days, the compostable plastic has decreased its mechanical properties in more than 90 %, while the oxodegradable film did not show significant degradation if it was not previously degraded by UV radiation. The use of these plastics should be assessed against the prevailing waste management system in each city or country. In the case of Mexico, which lacks the infrastructure for industrial composting, home composting could be an option to degrade compostable plastics along organic waste. However, more testing is needed in order to set the optimal parameters of the process.