New process makes 'biodegradable' plastics truly compostable

photo: a modified plastic bag biodregrades in only three days; Copyright: UC Berkeley photo by Ting Xu

A modified plastic (left) breaks down after just three days in standard compost (right) and entirely after two weeks. Source: UC Berkeley photo by Ting Xu

11/05/2021

Making plastic self-destruct

photo: graphic of how enzymes such as lipase (green balls) can degrade plastic polymers from the surface; Copyright: Christopher DelRe

The embedded enzymes are immobilized near the end of the polymer chains and, under the right conditions of heat and moisture, degrade polymer molecules primarily from the chain end. Source: Graphic by Christopher DelRe

Composting

photo: PLA plastic is placed in compost and biodegrades; Copyright: Adam Lau/Berkeley Engineering

A film of PLA plastic immediately after being placed in compost (left) and after one week in the compost (right). Embedded with an enzyme, the PLA plastic can biodegrade to simple molecules. Source: Adam Lau/Berkeley Engineering

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