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      Environmental performance of bio-based and biodegradable plastics: the road ahead

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          Abstract

          This review provides a critical discussion as to the future direction of plastic materials, including balancing factors such as biodegradability and longevity, effects of additive compounds, feedstock developments, and environmental considerations.

          Abstract

          Future plastic materials will be very different from those that are used today. The increasing importance of sustainability promotes the development of bio-based and biodegradable polymers, sometimes misleadingly referred to as ‘bioplastics’. Because both terms imply “green” sources and “clean” removal, this paper aims at critically discussing the sometimes-conflicting terminology as well as renewable sources with a special focus on the degradation of these polymers in natural environments. With regard to the former we review innovations in feedstock development ( e.g. microalgae and food wastes). In terms of the latter, we highlight the effects that polymer structure, additives, and environmental variables have on plastic biodegradability. We argue that the ‘biodegradable’ end-product does not necessarily degrade once emitted to the environment because chemical additives used to make them fit for purpose will increase the longevity. In the future, this trend may continue as the plastics industry also is expected to be a major user of nanocomposites. Overall, there is a need to assess the performance of polymer innovations in terms of their biodegradability especially under realistic waste management and environmental conditions, to avoid the unwanted release of plastic degradation products in receiving environments.

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          Most cited references 195

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          Autonomic healing of polymer composites.

          Structural polymers are susceptible to damage in the form of cracks, which form deep within the structure where detection is difficult and repair is almost impossible. Cracking leads to mechanical degradation of fibre-reinforced polymer composites; in microelectronic polymeric components it can also lead to electrical failure. Microcracking induced by thermal and mechanical fatigue is also a long-standing problem in polymer adhesives. Regardless of the application, once cracks have formed within polymeric materials, the integrity of the structure is significantly compromised. Experiments exploring the concept of self-repair have been previously reported, but the only successful crack-healing methods that have been reported so far require some form of manual intervention. Here we report a structural polymeric material with the ability to autonomically heal cracks. The material incorporates a microencapsulated healing agent that is released upon crack intrusion. Polymerization of the healing agent is then triggered by contact with an embedded catalyst, bonding the crack faces. Our fracture experiments yield as much as 75% recovery in toughness, and we expect that our approach will be applicable to other brittle materials systems (including ceramics and glasses).
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            The return of a forgotten polymer—Polycaprolactone in the 21st century

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              Microplastics in the marine environment.

              This review discusses the mechanisms of generation and potential impacts of microplastics in the ocean environment. Weathering degradation of plastics on the beaches results in their surface embrittlement and microcracking, yielding microparticles that are carried into water by wind or wave action. Unlike inorganic fines present in sea water, microplastics concentrate persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by partition. The relevant distribution coefficients for common POPs are several orders of magnitude in favour of the plastic medium. Consequently, the microparticles laden with high levels of POPs can be ingested by marine biota. Bioavailability and the efficiency of transfer of the ingested POPs across trophic levels are not known and the potential damage posed by these to the marine ecosystem has yet to be quantified and modelled. Given the increasing levels of plastic pollution of the oceans it is important to better understand the impact of microplastics in the ocean food web. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department Aquatic Ecotoxicology, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Max-von-Laue-Str. 13
                [2 ]Frankfurt
                [3 ]Germany
                [4 ]Department of Biology
                [5 ]Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
                Journal
                CSRVBR
                Chemical Society Reviews
                Chem. Soc. Rev.
                Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
                0306-0012
                1460-4744
                2017
                2017
                : 46
                : 22
                : 6855-6871
                10.1039/C7CS00149E
                © 2017

                http://rsc.li/journals-terms-of-use

                Product
                Self URI (article page): http://xlink.rsc.org/?DOI=C7CS00149E

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