A recent study from the UGA New Materials Institute found that polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) material is an eco-friendly alternative to petrochemical plastics and effectively biodegrades in aerobic or anaerobic environments, such as a landfill, waste treatment facility or the ocean. The researchers examined PHA material developed by Danimer Scientific, which develops and manufactures biodegradable plastic products.
To determine how PHA biodegrades in a proper waste management scenario, researchers measured the gaseous carbon loss of PHA samples placed in anaerobic sludge after 40 – 60 days of incubation and compared the levels to those of cellulose powder in the same setting. The anaerobic degradation of PHA was not significantly different from that of the cellulose powder. In addition, the methane yields of PHA were found to be similar to food waste, which suggests the material could be effectively processed alongside common organic waste in a landfill.
The study, “Biodegradation of Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyhexanoate) Plastic under Anaerobic Sludge and Aerobic Seawater Conditions: Gas Evolution and Microbial Diversity,” was published in Environmental Science and Technology.