From what materials are biodegradable plastics made?  

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Plastic that is not biodegradable is made from a polymer that is derived from petroleum. This type of plastic is an environmental concern because it is not recognized by most decomposers.  According to Kenneth Peters, a geochemist from Stanford University, decomposers do not have the metabolic pathways needed to break down plastics. As a result, plastic is accumulating on Earth.

By developing biodegradable plastics, this environmental concern is reduced. Below, several materials used to make biodegradable plastics and the use of each kind of plastic have been identified.

  • Biodegradable plastics made from polylactic acid (PLA) are used for compost bags and packaging.
  • Biodegradable plastics made from polyglycolic acid (PGA) used as parts that fix the placement of bones.
  • Biodegradable plastics made from polyhydroxbutyrate is used to make bottles, bags, and wrapping films.
  • Biodegradable plastics made from polyvinyl acetate (PVAc) are used to make laminates and adhesives.

Here is a fabulous table from ChemPRIME that outlines additional substances from which different types of biodegradable plastics are composed.

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