Call for partners: Biodegradation of invisible materials in the environment

Many biodegradable polymers, i.e. plastics, but also other polymers used as coatings, end up as very small particles (e.g. microplastics) in the environment or even dissolved in water. These invisible materials are generally assumed to be degraded, unfortunately little is known about the biodegradation behavior. In this project we will study the influence of both type and polymer structure of various biodegradable materials to obtain the required knowledge for truly biodegradable materials.

Many new regulations are currently formulated around the use of plastics for various applications. The aim of these regulations is to prevent plastics from entering the environment and thereby acting as a major cause of pollution. Biodegradable plastics are available on the market, however these tend not to degrade in every natural environment. The standard tests available do not offer insight into the degradation rates of such materials in all environments mainly due to the resource intensive experimentation required for showing biodegradability. We are looking for industries interested in development of biodegradable plastics that will break down in most natural environments. The framework of this envisaged project is a co-funded by a consortium of interested industries and by public funds from the Dutch ‘TKI-Agrifood’. For this we intend to submit a proposal to TKI-Agrifood in May/September 2022.

Full understanding of the material formulation on the biodegradability in various environments

Within this project we will developed a high throughput assay for testing biodegradability using the most novel CO2 sensors that allow continuous analysis of CO2 in a high throughput setup of 240 conditions. This system will be used to study the biodegradability of selected materials. Both the polymer structure of these materials will be varied (amorphic versus crystalline) as well as the environment in which the biodegradation takes place (sweet/salt water, soil, etc). This will allow building a database containing information on the biodegradability dependent on the type of material, it polymer structure and the environment.

Co-funding partners are invited

We hope to attract sufficient interested industries and intend to subsequently submit an R&D project on this topic for co-funding by TKI, a Dutch public organization focusing on Argifood and circularity. As co-funding partners, we invite companies active in one of the above application fields, in plastic production, fertilizer companies and others with a stake in development of standards for biodegradable materials.