Biodegradable testing can be confusing and many organizations will direct you to a path that is even more confusing. We at BioSphere want to help you understand the basics behind different testing methods and standards in the marketplace. Information and Definition: This test allows your company to claim biodegradation in bioreactor landfills, there are very few of these landfills in the United States and around the world. This is not a valid test for claiming complete biodegradation in every landfill environment. ASTM D has been performed by many organizations and millions of dollars have been spent on testing under those testing methods, in the powers that be on ASTM then made the change from landfill representation to bioreactors, in the landfill biodegradation was added back into ASTM D and now it represents a landfill environment for recirculating lechate back into the landfill, the ASTM D was essentially the new test.

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Plastics are everywhere. Plastics are big, big business. So, many organizations have a lot at stake when it comes to the regulation and politics of biodegradability. A lot of people argue the details about whether various plastics really rot. And if they do, how long it takes and what sort of byproducts they leave behind. ASTM develops voluntary consensus standards for all sorts of products and services, both in the United States and internationally.

This test helps companies determine the biodegradability of plastics in an anaerobic environment like a landfill. Because decomposition tests take time and trial-and-error, there's plenty of room for disagreement as to what the test results mean.

Companies that make various types of biodegradable plastics, oxo-degradable plastics, and compostable bioplastics push each other for proof that their approach is superior. Charles Lancelot, executive director of the Plastics Environmental Council, has been working with plastics for 40 years.

He says that politics and PR games, especially in California, have misled the public about the differences between these plastics. He points to PLA-based bioplastics, which are made from corn starch, as one example.

Corn and agriculture lobby groups want PLA in more products because doing so will increase the demand -- and eventually the price -- for corn. But Lancelot says that PLA products just don't degrade unless they're composted professionally.

And from an environmental point of view, that makes them less desirable than plastics that truly biodegrade in landfills and ditches. He also highlights a drawback of oxobiodegradable plastics; they need UV light and oxygen in order to degrade, and those variables are in short supply in a landfill. In order to calm controversy and build exacting standards for biodegradation, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State Universities are performing landfill simulations and will submit their findings and recommendations to the U.

New standards will be publicized by the media and likely will affect public opinion on various types of degradable plastics for years to come. Public pressure, as well as more efficient means of making biodegradable plastics, could well accelerate the acceptance and use of these additives in many products. In the end, that could mean more environmentally friendly plastics, ones that disappear completely -- instead of lasting for millennia as a hallmark of a civilization that knew how to make wonderfully durable products yet couldn't find a way to properly dispose of them.

What is corn plastic? Are some things we recycle better off in landfills? In what new ways can bacteria help shrink our landfills? Prev NEXT. The Biodegradation Additives Debate. Related Articles What is corn plastic?


ASTM D5511 – Anaerobic Biodegradation

What tests validate biodegradation of plastics in a landfill? Can ENSO material be used for food contact applications? Are plastics enhanced with ENSO recyclable? The ASTM D test is a short term test to provide indication of the biodegradability of plastic materials in a high solid anaerobic environment. This is a great test to quickly determine if materials can biodegrade, but does not provide realistic waste conditions and real life scenarios.


How Biodegradation Additives Work

Biodegradation of a plastic within a high-solids anaerobic digestion unit is an important phenomenon because it will affect the decomposition of other waste materials enclosed by the plastic and the resulting quality and appearance of the digestate after an anaerobic digestion process. Biodegradation of plastics could allow for the safe disposal of these plastics through aerobic and anaerobic solid-waste-treatment plants. This procedure has been developed to permit the determination of the rate and degree of anaerobic biodegradability of plastic products when placed in a high-solids anaerobic digester for the production of digestate from municipal solid waste. This test method may also resemble some conditions in biologically active landfills where the gas generated is recovered and biogas production is actively promoted by inoculation for example, codeposition of anaerobic sewage sludge, anaerobic leachate recirculation , moisture control for example, leachate recirculation , and temperature control for example, short-term injection of oxygen, heating of recirculated leachate.

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