Plastics of the Future? The Impact of Biodegradable Polymers on the Environment and on Society

Tobias P. Haider, Carolin Völker, Johanna Kramm, Katharina Landfester, Frederik R. Wurm*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

286 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In recent years the littering of plastics and the problems related to their persistence in the environment have become a major focus in both research and the news. Biodegradable polymers like poly(lactic acid) are seen as a suitable alternative to commodity plastics. However, poly(lactic acid) is basically non‐degradable in seawater. Similarly, the degradation rate of other biodegradable polymers also crucially depends on the environments they end up in, such as soil or marine water, or when used in biomedical devices. In this Minireview, we show that biodegradation tests carried out in artificial environments lack transferability to real conditions and, therefore, highlight the necessity of environmentally authentic and relevant field‐testing conditions. In addition, we focus on ecotoxicological implications of biodegradable polymers. We also consider the social aspects and ask how biodegradable polymers influence consumer behavior and municipal waste management. Taken together, this study is intended as a contribution towards evaluating the potential of biodegradable polymers as alternative materials to commodity plastics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-62
JournalAngewandte Chemie (international edition)
Volume58
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

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