Polymers: Biodegradation of Different Materials

The purpose of this experiment was to find the fastest and most efficient means of biodegradation of different polymer chains. This was found using a controlled experiment, with two variables- type of material and hydration. The first experiment included grapefruit peel samples for the control and paper, biodegradable plastic and plastic samples for the material types. The hydration included 0 mL and 20 mL of water added daily to samples. There were sixteen samples in all. The experiment lasted for one month. After the experimenters ran their first experiment they were able to choose the most important variables for the final experiment.

The second experiment, phase two, included only three material types -paper, biodegradable plastic and plastic samples. This experiment only had one hydration level-20 mL per day. This experiment lasted two weeks, using only a portion of the samples from the previous experiment.

Using all of the final results, conclusions were made and discussed. The biodegradable plastic samples lost little mass in either experiment. This may have been because of the short time span allowed for experimentation. The paper samples in both trials were consistent, losing approximately the same amount of mass each time.

The best results- 2-4% lost in the first experiment and 4.7-5.6% lost in phase two were recorded from the paper samples. This made sense because the polymeric structure in paper is less entangled than the structure in plastics. This conclusion proved the hypothesis and research of Ansell and Boyland correct, that the best source of biodegradation is not found in biodegradable plastic, but in paper.

Research Done By:

Pamela Ansell

Nicole Boyland
L'Anse Creuse North