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2023-10-09

What are biodegradable granules made of?

Biodegradable granules, also known as biodegradable plastics or bio-based plastics, have gained significant attention in recent years due to their potential to reduce environmental pollution and dependence on traditional plastics derived from fossil fuels. These granules are made from various natural sources and undergo a degradation process that allows them to break down into non-toxic substances over time. In this article, we will explore what biodegradable granules are made of and how they are manufactured.

Biodegradable granules can be produced from a variety of raw materials, including plant-based polymers and natural fibers. One common raw material used is corn starch. Starch is a carbohydrate that can be extracted from various plants, but corn is the most common source due to its high starch content. Corn starch is mixed with plasticizers and other additives to create a biodegradable polymer, which is then processed into granules. The resulting granules can be used to manufacture biodegradable products such as bags, cutlery, packaging materials, and even disposable electronics.

Another popular raw material for biodegradable granules is polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is derived from natural sugars found in corn, sugarcane, and other similar crops. The process involves fermenting the sugars to produce lactic acid, which is then polymerized to create PLA. PLA has similar properties to traditional plastics and can be used in a wide range of applications. It is considered biodegradable because it can break down into carbon dioxide and water under certain conditions.

Besides corn starch and PLA, other materials such as cellulose, chitosan, and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) can also be used to produce biodegradable granules. Cellulose is a natural polymer found in the cell walls of plants, while chitosan is derived from the shells of crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs. PHA, on the other hand, is produced by bacteria during fermentation processes. These alternative raw materials offer additional options for the production of biodegradable plastics and can help reduce reliance on single-source crops like corn.

The manufacturing process of biodegradable granules involves several stages. After the raw material is extracted and processed, it is transformed into a polymer through various chemical reactions. The polymer is then melted and extruded into long strands, which are cooled and cut into small granules. These granules can be further processed and molded into different shapes or used as additives in traditional plastic production to enhance their biodegradability.

The degradation process of biodegradable granules is influenced by environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and microbial activity. In composting conditions, where temperature and moisture levels are ideal, biodegradable granules can break down within a few months to a few years, depending on the specific material and product. However, in regular landfill conditions, the lack of oxygen and sunlight can significantly slow down the degradation process. It is important to note that while biodegradable plastics offer environmental benefits, they still require proper disposal and management to ensure their complete degradation.

The use of biodegradable granules has the potential to reduce the accumulation of plastic waste and mitigate the negative environmental impacts associated with traditional plastics. However, it is crucial to balance the advantages of biodegradability with other factors such as resource availability and production costs. Additionally, more research and development are needed to improve the performance, cost-effectiveness, and scalability of biodegradable plastics to make them a viable alternative to traditional plastics in various industries.

In conclusion, biodegradable granules are made from renewable resources such as corn starch, polylactic acid, cellulose, chitosan, and polyhydroxyalkanoates. These raw materials are processed into polymers, which are then transformed into granules through extrusion and cooling. The degradation process of biodegradable granules depends on environmental conditions and can take months to years. While biodegradable plastics offer promising solutions to plastic pollution, further advancements are necessary to ensure their widespread adoption and effective management.

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