I. What is Biodegradation?
The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines biodegradation as,
“A process by which microbial organisms transform or alter (through metabolic or enzymatic action) the structure of chemicals introduced into the environment.”
Basically, organic (carbon-based) material is changed through chemical processes from complex molecules into simpler molecules, eventually returning the molecules into the environment. For example, a banana peel can be reduced from cellulose to water, carbon dioxide gas, and humus in a compost pile.
It is hard for polyethylene, polypropylene, and as a matter of fact for all the normal synthetic polymers to biodegrade. This is primarily because of their breakdown mechanism.
II. Physical Mechanism
All polymers are made up small repeating units called monomers, which join together to form polymers. All thermoplastics, when exposed to certain conditions begin to degrade. For example, environmental conditions such as exposing to sun light, chemicals cause degradation of these materials. This is a chemical process and results in breaking of these chain like structures. The rate of degradation depends upon various factors such as nature of the material and the environmental conditions it is exposed to. This normally takes from months to years. The polymer even after breaking down exists as fragments of chains (known as oligomers). In order for them to be broken into their basic units (carbon and hydrogen), it takes a lot of time. This is why it takes years for polymers to degrade.
Even though PE and PP contain only carbon and hydrogen in their chemical structure, during polymerization and processing various chemicals are added to them in order to impart some particular properties or improve its processability (additives and fillers). These chemicals contain various elements in them and this is what makes them difficult to biodegrade. A number of manufactories with sense of social responsibility and future picture have initiated to keep eco-friendly by reducing those harmful chemical additives and fillers.
Not logically to say stop one or another without trying to find solutions for the crowd, modern daily life doesn’t ignore Eco-protecting, but our facilities and institutes are obliged to get those practically usable and recycled materials before any country ban the PE or PP thoroughly. Gradually we can alter from PE to PP, Non-woven to Woven, PP to cloth. He doesn’t show his basic scientific quality who stop and keep the crowd without an alternative, applicative and affordable outlet.
III. Leading the Way in Sustainability
PP, together with PE, consumes the least amount of energy during production and produces the lowest carbon dioxide emissions when compared to other plastics. Its lower density also means that switching to PP reduces the absolute amount of waste. Parts made from PP can be recycled multiple times in a wide variety of applications before incineration is necessary. When that time comes, it is possible to recover more energy from PP during incineration than from any other comparable plastic. It also flows more easily as it degrades, without cross linking, gel forming or off-gassing.
Both Starbucks and McDonald’s have switched to polypropylene cold cups rather than polyethylene terephthalate (PET), using less plastic and lowering their greenhouse gas emissions. 70% of the polypropylene uses is for packaging needs for the food industry.
A polypropylene bag is a high clarity, crystal clear bag which enhances the product’s image. It provides a highly protective barrier against moisture and vapors. These poly bags delay evaporation and dehydration to preserve freshness and taste of packaged foods. Polypropylene bags are great for the following industries; food, electronics manufacturing, hospitals, and agriculture.
Versatile, Beautiful, Functional
Polypropylene (PP) is a versatile thermoplastic material, compatible with many processing techniques and used in many commercial applications.
PP is available in a wide variety of melt flow rates, ranging from 0.3 to over 1000 g/10 min, and it is easily recyclable. It can be processed by all methods, including injection molding, blow molding, extrusion, blown, cast film, and thermoforming.
At Milliken, we’ve created advanced additive technologies, including clarifying agents, nucleating agents, and reinforcing agents, that enhance the natural properties of polypropylene, making it clearer, stronger, and more versatile for use in everyday products.
- Low density, reducing environmental impact
- Chemical and thermal resistance
- Fully recyclable
- Excellent moisture and oxygen barrier
- Hot fill and retort capable
- Crystal clear for great product presentation
- Stiff and hard plastic
- Rough surface has the potential to produce scratches
- Outstanding vapor and moisture barrier.
- Meets FDA and USDA specifications.
Quick Facts on the Sustainability of Polypropylene
- Polypropylene produces less solid waste by weight than PET, PS or PVC
- Polypropylene can be recycled into many applications, including battery cases, paint cans, home storage, flower pots, pallets, crates, composite lumber, and more
- 44 out of 51 the largest US municipalities by state collect polypropylene
- Polypropylene and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) produce significantly less CO2 equivalents by weight than PET, PS, and PVC
Polypropylene parts can be 100% recycled into many applications. There is an existing market for recycled PP (rPP) in a very wide range of products such as automotive applications, buckets, caps and closures, garden furniture, pallets, pipes, and more.
PP plastic product examples are:
- PP Non-Woven Shopping Bags
- PP Woven Bags for both industrial and household
- Medecial garments, masks and caps etc.
- Food containers
- Shipping containers
- Drink lids
IV. Is polypropylene biodegradable?
Seeing from the form and structure, non-woven fabrics can be regarded as the aggregate of fibre and small opening. The token system of characteristics of the aggregate is formed by ranging method of fibre as well as opening shape, dimension and quality relates to the ranging method of fibre, which makes the structure of non-woven fabrics possess the character of disorder and randomness. From practical experiments held by Euro-America and Japan institution, colleagues and individuals, it shows its actual transformation period as this:
With sunshine and wind-force outdoors without artificial interfering, the tests prove:
A. 4-6 Months
With ordinary sunny days more than 20 days/ Month averagely, Polypropylene Non-Woven finished shopping bag, either in W or D-cut shape or free standing box shape, it breaks down into small pieces of less than half square inch.
Under similar condition, it mashes into very tiny pieces of micrometer-scale and powder/ dust.
C. 12 Months +
It keeps the same shape and physical properties for a relatively long period, which is consumed same long as other thermoplastic. Any PP part would last many years in the soil, at the meanwhile it is not toxic by itself, if a child, an animal or fish eating a tiny PP part, it could stay in its stomach and possibly do some harm or excrete without endangering his life.
No official conclusion of neither yes nor no can’t be submitted until April of 2018 by any authoritative parties in the worldwide range. To protect our sole earth and get our environment, we keep scientific serious research till we get them definitively approved.