Last years the degradable materials and products in general, become more popular as the need of the universal market for green products growing continuously.
It's usual, every time that new products are available in the markets, to observed a misunderstanding of the different types of these materials (because of various reasons -ignorance, reckless, etc.). A typical example is the confusion of hydro-degradable polymers with the bio-degradable ones. That’s why, many times, some scientists mention the BIO-degradable polymers (starch-based - corn starch / potato / rice, etc.-) as hydro-degradable.
The main reason of this confusion is the fact that the biodegradable products are also sensitive in the moisture. But must be also noticed, that the biodegradable products do not be degraded via hydrolysis.
As a matter of fact there are many categories of degradable materials, as follow:
A) Biodegradable polymers (based on starch of corn/potatoes/rice, etc.)
B) Hydro-degradable polymers (they are similar with those of the previous category but in this case the materials are not starch-based and are degraded under moisturizing conditions)
C) Photo-degradable plastics (conventional plastics with photo-degradable additives that are degraded under the sunlight)
D) Bio-degradable plastics (conventional plastics with bio-degradable additives that are degraded after their burial)
E) OXO-degradable plastics (conventional plastics with degradable additives. This category includes both, biodegradable and photo-degradable plastics and its name is related with the oxidation of materials. But both materials could be oxidized, and that’s why the prefix “oxo” couldn’t indicate the way of degradation.)
In this essay when we are referring to a hydro-degradable polymer we’ll mean polymers which are degraded only by water.
In this point, we must also mention the case of the word “degradable”. This term describes all the materials/products that are degradable in any way. Therefore, when this term is used without any prefix the consumer couldn’t be sure what type of degradation (photo/bio/hydro) we talking about.
The fact is that the technology is evolving fast. This development has a direct, and in the most cases, positive impact on everyday life of all of us. Without doubt, that implies a better standard of living. However, this improvement leads to, among other things, the increase of the consumer’s needs and, therefore, to the change of the consumer habits. That’s why new products are generated, in order to meet these new needs. Therefore, plastic packaging (and plastic in general) is "invaded" in our lives, because is offering a great solution to many practical problems, of both, business and end users.
But beyond the significant advantages, plastic products also presented a number of significant disadvantages, mainly related to human health and environmental pollution. In simple words, sometimes plastic items are hazardous to the human health and, in any case, the plastic waste is a significant problem for the environment as it’s not degradable.
[It should be noted, however, that in certain circumstances, these hazards mainly caused due to the incorrect choice of manufacturers.]
In order these deficiencies το be eliminated, many scientist conducting numerous surveys and experiments to create new materials which would have the same user-friendliness and the beneficial, in general, of plastic, but without its serious disadvantages.
These scientific and environmental concerns gave birth to a large field of research, and later of entrepreneurship, the field of biodegradable plastic or substitutes of plastic. The most innovative and recent technology, created for this purpose, are the hydro-degradable polymers that are presented in this document.
This is a new revolutionary technology that could be also described as a "scientific miracle", due of its unique characteristics. In this article we present the results of years of long research, that allow us now the mass production of products. Of course, it is obvious (as we talking about “mass production”) that any test required (regarding the degradability, ecotoxicity, etc.) has been performed and the final products fulfill all the relative requirements.
These polymers are one of the most innovative solutions. They was recently completed, hence the absence of relevant literature. Clearly, the hydro-degradable polymers are susceptible even to moisture and large amounts of water are not required to their degradation. Obviously, anyone can put objections that just because of this susceptibility to moisture; the final products are not commercially viable.
But before any objection, should be taken into consideration also some other parameters. It must be noticed that in order to the hydro-biodegradable final products could be produced massively, it is understood that any technical issue (that may be raised during production, transport, or use by any final user) is successfully solved.
That’s why it has already developed the know-ledge required in order any finished product to remain watertight and safe during storage and use, until it end-up in the stage of waste-management. Hence these polymers provide an innovative solution to the problems of "shelf-life" and contact with water and / or moisture, during use. This practically means that the hydro-degradable polymers could be now used to manufacture any product, regardless of its use. This way could be manufactured products which are immediately degraded, without harming the environment, but also without problems during their use. Plus, these products are safe for food-contact, as do not migrate any hazardous contaminant.
Advantages of Hydro-degradable polymers
1. Degradation under the conditions and the requirements of Standard EN 13432/2000
2. Final products with extra-resistibility.
3. The clarity of the final products is even better that those of the rest ones.
4. No changes in the existing production’s process must be applied.
5. Saving electricity during the manufacture (another way of protecting the environment).
6. Suitable for the manufacture of any product.
7. The price of the final products is competitive compared to this of conventional plastics.
Products which could be made by hydro-degradable polymers (indicative and non-restrictive):
1. Water Bottles
2. Bottles of soft drinks
3. Bottles of cooking oils
4. Industrial Oil containers
5. Detergents containers
6. Wrapping films suitable for contact with food containing fat (sausages, cheese, etc.)
7. Wrapping films for vegetables (other type of films designed especially for contact with food that not contain fat)
8. Disposable Cups
9. Disposable Plates
10. Disposable Cutlery
11. Bowls for various types of foods (like yogurt)
12. Tupper for different uses (ex. Containers of foods such as tzatziki, various salads, etc.)
13. Disposable food containers
15. Ice-cells (without any transfer of odors from the plastic packaging)
16. Disposable Gloves
17. Carrier bags
18. money transfer bags (ex. Used in banks, cashiers, airports, etc.)
19. garbage bags
20. Shopping bags
21. Bean bags
22. Fertilizer Bags
27. Disposable Medical Equipment
28. Syringes for veterinary use
30. Clay pigeons etc.
Truths and lies about Hydro-degradable products
A) Is it true that are required large quantities of water for their degradation?
Comments of this type are also accompanied by criticisms and objections that similar solutions are not viable due of the problem of water-drought. As a matter of fact, the hydro-degradation do not requires drinkable, clean, or lot of water. Practically, hydro-degradable polymers would easily be degraded even by the drainage of residual waste or even existing natural moisture, etc..
B) Their cost is too high?
The cost of hydro degradable products is similar to those of many conventional plastics used actually by plastic industry. Moreover, the cost of each finished product depends on the nature and use of the product, as is the case of conventional plastics.
C) Are the methane emissions (during the degradation) high?
The release of methane take place during the biodegradation of cellulosic polymers, and mainly for polymers made from PLA (starch-based), which is not the case for Hydro-degradable polymers. Although this technology is similar with that of BIO-degradable polymers, the composition of materials of these two categories do not. The hydro-degradable polymers contain natural ingredients, but these ingredients do not include starch or celluloses. For this reason, actually, there is no way to be used ingredients from genetically modified organisms. More details on the ingredients cannot be given at this time, since technology is recently patented and is not yet released to the public (according the relative laws).
D) Does hydro-degradable polymers are suitable for manufacture of finished products that may be contacted with water or moisture?
Furthermore, the know-ledge required that allows the construction of any product, regardless of its use, is developed (and recently patented). Moreover, is for this reason exactly, that it’s not required any special storage conditions.
E) The finished products are produced under different conditions than conventional plastics?
Τhe conditions required are similar with these of the conventional plastics. As a matter of fact, the energy saving is larger generating, this way, additional benefits to the environment, without the manufacturers facing any difficulties.
However, the original hydro-degradable polymers are quite different than biodegradable polymers. This article was written in order to present the original hydro-degradable polymers and, in the same time, to clarify the confusion between the biodegradable and hydro-degradable polymers.