R&D and Innovations

Can Agricultural Plastics PBAT Biodegrade?

A study was published that Swiss researchers have proven that PBAT polyester could be broken down by soil bacteria.

Polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) is used a lot in agriculture and nobody had been able to demonstrate that it could biodegrade

Michael Thomas Zumstein and his team of researchers from ETH Zurich University came to the conclusion that PBAT biodegrades and could be a solution to solve plastic accumulation in soil due to agricultural practices.

The agricultural sector uses a lot of plastics, the practice is called “plasticulture”. A frequent example is using plastic films (plastic mulch) to protect the soil. These films are usually not biodegradable and they become waste and litter.

It was said that PBAT could biodegrade in soil but it was never proven. Zumstein and his team have now; supposedly, proven the biodegradation of PBAT in soil.

Zumstein from ETH Zurich said

Our results unequivocally demonstrate the biodegradability of poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT), an important polyester used in agriculture, in soil. Carbon from each monomer unit of PBAT was used by soil microorganisms, including filamentous fungi, to gain energy and to form biomass. This work advances both our conceptual understanding of polymer biodegradation and the methodological capabilities to assess this process in natural and engineered environments.

In other words, soil microorganisms used carbon from the PBAT to gain energy.

I wonder which lawyer came up with that phrase?

Read the study

Biodegradation of synthetic polymers in soils: Tracking carbon into CO2 and microbial biomass

CLOSING REMARKS

  • The EU will regulate plastics soon. A proposal named EU Proposal to reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment or commonly referred to as “Single Use Plastics Proposal” has been issued in May 2018.
  • The proposal will have a big impact on the plastics industry … In other words the hunting season is open,  Alice and Santa Claus are coming to town,  Wonderland is having an open door day.
  • We’ll soon have studies showing that polystyrene is actually good for the environment and for your health.