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Biodegradable and compostable materials in 3D printing

In the era of sustainable production, biodegradable and compostable plastics are becoming more and more popular, also in the 3D printing sector. In order to understand how these materials can contribute to reducing the negative impact on the environment, it is crucial to understand the differences between biodegradability and compostability and the conditions under which individual plastics decompose.

3D printing is a technology that makes it possible to create objects by putting successive layers of material on top of each other and selectively bonding them together, creating a physical object. Therefore, sustainable materials such as biodegradable and compostable plastics are ideal for this type of production. Examples of such materials are PLA (polylactide) and certified compostable plastic (CPLA).

Effective management of 3D printing-related waste relies on a good distinction between biodegradability and compostability. Plastics such as PLA are only biodegradable under industrial conditions, which means that they do not decompose in home composters. In this case, it is necessary to transfer the waste to specialized composting plants. In turn, home compostable plastics, such as CPLA, allow for simple and ecological disposal. 3D printing waste made of such materials can be processed in home composters, turning them into valuable nutrients.

Biodegradable plastic is a material that decomposes under the influence of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi or mold, into smaller components, such as carbon dioxide, water and biomass. This process consists in the natural decomposition of the material, which reduces the amount of waste introduced into the environment and reduces the consumption of natural resources.

Biodegradable and compostable plastic are not the same

Biodegradability and compostability are two different processes that are often confused with each other. Composting is the process of biological decomposition of organic substances by microorganisms in the presence of oxygen, leading to the formation of humus – a substance rich in nutrients. Biodegradability, on the other hand, is not related to the presence of oxygen and can occur under various conditions, both aerobic and anaerobic.

Industrial biodegradability refers to materials that only decompose under specific, controlled conditions, such as specialized composting facilities. These conditions may include high temperature, adequate humidity, access to oxygen, and appropriate pH. Plastics such as PLA (polyactide) or PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) are biodegradable only in such conditions, because they require much higher temperatures than those found in home conditions.

Home compostable plastics are materials that decompose at lower temperatures than industrial ones, as well as in less controlled conditions that can be achieved in home composters. An example of such a material is certified compostable plastic (CPLA), which can be broken down by microorganisms at home temperatures in a matter of weeks to months. Such plastics usually bear the “home compostable” mark, which makes them easy to identify.

Distinguishing between biodegradability and compostability, and understanding the conditions under which individual plastics decompose, is key to effectively managing waste and minimizing its impact on the environment. It is also important that consumers are aware of these differences and use the appropriate methods for disposing of plastics. In the case of plastics that are biodegradable only in industrial conditions, remember that they will not decompose in a home composter. In this case, it is worth looking for local industrial composting opportunities to ensure proper disposal of this type of material.

On the other hand, compostable plastics at home offer a simple and ecological solution that allows you to convert waste into valuable nutrients. By choosing products labeled home compostable, we support the development of sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics and reduce our environmental footprint.

Source: www.greenfill3d.com

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