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Assessment of Petroleum-Based Plastic and Bioplastics Degradation Using Anaerobic Digestion

Bioplastics have emerged as a viable alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastic (PET). Three of the most common bioplastic polymers are polyhydroxybutyrate-valerate (PHBV), polylactide (PLA), and cellulose-based bioplastic (CBB). This study assessed biodegradation through anaerobic digestion (AD) of these three bioplastics and PET digested with food waste (FW) at mesophilic (35 °C) and thermophilic (55 °C) temperatures. The four plastic types were digested with FW in triplicate batch reactors. Additionally, two blank treatments (inoculum-only) and two PHBV treatments (with FW + inoculum and inoculum-only) were digested at 35 and 55 °C. The PHBV treatment without FW at 35 °C (PHBV-35) produced the most methane (CH4) normalized by the volatile solids (VS) of the bioplastics over the 104-day experimental period (271 mL CH4/g VS). Most bioplastics had more CH4 production than PET when normalized by digester volume or gram substrate added, with the PLA-FW-55 (5.80 m3 CH4/m3), PHBV-FW-55 (2.29 m3 CH4/m3), and PHBV-55 (4.05 m3 CH4/m3) having 848,275 and 561%, respectively, more CH4 production than the PET treatment. The scanning electron microscopy (SEM) showed full degradation of PHBV pellets after AD. The results show that when PHBV is used as bioplastic, it can be degraded with energy production through AD.

Publication date: 01/12/2021

Author: Benjamin Nachod

Reference: doi: 10.3390/su132313295

MDPI (sustainability)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.