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How biodegradation of a compostable plastic occurs?

The biodegradation process is a biochemical conversion of organic matter into different compounds, carried out naturally by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi or algae. These microorganisms, as the main actors of biodegradation, need an environment with humidity and temperature control for their reproduction.

Now, when a compostable plastic is in a suitable place for its biodegradation, this biochemical conversion begins, which is made up of the following stages:
1. Biofragmentation: this stage begins with the combined action of different microbes and/or abiotic factors such as sunlight, water present and temperature, causing chemical and physical changes in the material. Likewise, a decrease in mechanical properties and fragmentation into small pieces is evident.

2. Depolymerization: the microorganisms present secrete enzymes and free radicals on the resulting fragments, breaking the polymer chains and progressively reducing their molecular weight, in addition to oxidizing the low molecular weight polymer chains, which makes it easier for more microorganisms to follow the biodegradation process.

3. Mineralization: once the low molecular weight polymers are transported into the cells, a series of enzymatic reactions begin, completely biodegrading the remains of the material and transforming them into CO2, water and biomass.

Finally, the time that this process takes depends largely on the type and quantity of microorganisms present. However, the characteristics of the plastic material such as thickness, crystallinity, molecular weight, type of functional groups in the polymer chain and additives added, have a great influence since the interaction that the microorganisms will have with the material depends on this. Although it is not a complex process, the right conditions must be guaranteed for the microorganisms to inhabit. In the event that they are not present, biodegradation will not start (or it will stop) and it will be resumed only when conditions are optimal again.

Closing the cycle depends on us!

If you have questions or require more information, you can contact the Masterbatch Plant located in Sabaneta, Antioquia by phone: +57 (604) 444 80 97 or by email at

Author: MB Plant Research’s team | January 31, 2022.

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