Biodegradable polymers are designed to resist a number of environmental factors during use, but to be biodegradable under disposal conditions. The biodegradation of polylactide (PLLA) was studied at different elevated temperatures in both aerobic and anaerobic, aquatic and solid state conditions. In the aerobic aquatic headspace test the mineralisation of PLLA was very slow at room temperature, but faster under thermophilic conditions. The clear effect of temperature on the biodegradability of PLLA in the aquatic tests indicates that its polymer structure has to be hydrolysed before microorganisms can utilise it as a nutrient source. At similar elevated temperatures, the biodegradation of PLLA was much faster in anaerobic solid state conditions than in aerobic aquatic conditions. The behaviour of PLLA in the natural composting process was similar to that in the aquatic biodegradation tests, biodegradation starting only after the beginning of the thermophilic phase. These results indicate that PLLA can be considered as a compostable material, being stable during use at mesophilic temperatures, but degrading rapidly during waste disposal in compost or anaerobic treatment facilities.
- biodegradation tests
- thermophilic biodegradation