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Degradable Polyethylene: Fantasy or Reality
KTH, School of Chemical Science and Engineering (CHE), Fibre and Polymer Technology, Polymer Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7790-8987
KTH, School of Chemical Science and Engineering (CHE), Fibre and Polymer Technology, Polymer Technology.
2011 (English)In: Environmental Science and Technology, ISSN 0013-936X, E-ISSN 1520-5851, Vol. 45, no 10, 4217-4227 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Plastic waste disposal is one of the serious environmental issues being tackled by our society today. Polyethylene, particularly in packaging films, has received criticism as it tends to accumulate over a period of time, leaving behind an undesirable visual footprint. Degradable polyethylene, which would enter the eco-cycle harmlessly through biodegradation would be a desirable solution to this problem. However, the "degradable polyethylene" which is presently being promoted as an environmentally friendly alternative to the nondegradable counterpart, does not seem to meet this criterion. This article reviews the state of the art on the aspect of degradability of polyethylene containing pro-oxidants, and more importantly the effect these polymers could have on the environment in the long run. On exposure to heat, light, and oxygen, these polymers disintegrate into small fragments, thereby reducing or increasing the visual presence. However, these fragments can remain in the environment for prolonged time periods. This article also outlines important questions, particularly in terms of time scale of complete degradation, environmental fate of the polymer residues, and possible accumulation of toxins, the answers to which need to be established prior to accepting these polymers as environmentally benign alternatives to their nondegradable equivalents. It appears from the existing literature that our search for biodegradable polyethylene has not yet been realized.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 45, no 10, 4217-4227 p.
National Category
Polymer Chemistry Polymer Technologies
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-34229DOI: 10.1021/es104042fISI: 000290426900010ScopusID: 2-s2.0-79956052536OAI: diva2:422960

QC 20150622

Available from: 2011-06-14 Created: 2011-05-30 Last updated: 2015-06-22Bibliographically approved

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