Pooja C. Mayekar, Rafael Auras

Accelerating Biodegradation: Enhancing Poly(lactic Acid) Breakdown at Mesophilic Environmental Conditions with Biostimulants

  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Organic Chemistry

AbstractPoly(lactic acid) – PLA – has garnered interest due to its low environmental footprint and ability to replace conventional polymers and be disposed of in industrial composting environments. Although PLA is compostable when subjected to a suitable set of conditions (i.e., aerobic thermophilic conditions for an extended period), its broader acceptance in industrial composting facilities has been affected adversely due to longer degradation timeframes than the readily biodegradable organic waste fraction. PLA must be fully exposed to thermophilic conditions for prolonged periods to biodegrade, which has restricted its adoption and hindered its acceptance in industrial composting facilities, also negating its home composting potential. Thus, enhancing PLA biodegradation is crucial to expand its acceptance. PLA's biodegradability was investigated in a compost matrix under mesophilic conditions at 37°C for 180 days by biostimulating the compost environment with skim milk, gelatin, and ethyl lactate to enhance the different stages of PLA biodegradation. The evolved CO2, number average molecular weight, and crystallinity evolution were tracked. To achieve Mn ≲10 kDa for PLA, biodegradation rate was accelerated by 15% by adding skim milk, 25% by adding gelatin, and 22% by adding ethyl lactate. This work shows potential techniques to help biodegrade PLA in compost by adding biostimulants.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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