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Say hello to biodegradable microplastics: Plant-based polymers that can disappear within seven months

Date: 1.4.2024 

Microplastics can take anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years to break down and, in the meantime, our planet and bodies are becoming more polluted with these materials every day.

Kredit: Wagner et al. (2024), Environmental Sciences Europe, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.Finding viable alternatives to traditional petroleum-based plastics and microplastics has never been more important. New research from scientists at the University of California San Diego and materials science company Algenesis shows that their plant-based polymers biodegrade – even at the microplastic level – in under seven months.

"We're just starting to understand the implications of microplastics. We've only scratched the surface of knowing the environmental and health impacts," stated Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Michael Burkart, one of the paper's authors and an Algenesis co-founder. "We're trying to find replacements for materials that already exist, and make sure these replacements will biodegrade at the end of their useful life instead of collecting in the environment. That's not easy."

"When we first created these algae-based polymers about six years ago, our intention was always that it be completely biodegradable," said another of the paper's authors, Robert Pomeroy, who is also a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and an Algenesis co-founder. "We had plenty of data to suggest that our material was disappearing in the compost, but this is the first time we've measured it at the microparticle level."

Image source: Wagner et al. (2024), Environmental Sciences Europe, Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0.





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