Workshop: Bioplastics in waste management: solution or new problem

SESSION E08 / 13 October 2021 / 11:00 - 12:30

Workshop: Bioplastics in waste management: solution or new problem

Chair / Presidente: Christian Zafiu (AT)

There are two definitions existing for bioplastics. On one hand bioplastics are defined as materials that are introduced to substitute conventional (petrol based) plastics; on the other hand, biodegradable plastics are also called bioplastics. Much attention is given to biodegradable plastics that are expected to help in solving the plastic pollution problem in the environment. If such plastics are disposed of in a wrong way (e.g. littering, biowaste collection system), they will be degraded within foreseeable periods (compared to conventional plastics which remain for centuries in the environment). Test-procedures and standards were developed (e.g. (EN 13343), which allow to certify materials as biodegradable in different environments or as compostable. However, these test procedures do not always reflect environmental conditions and can lead to wrong expectations toward the degradability of the materials. On one hand - depending on environmental conditions – complete degradation needs time. Therefore, it is important to investigate not only degradability, but also the degradation dynamics of such materials. It is important to understand that remaining microplastic residues during degradation may be transferred to agriculture, accumulate there and may lead to effects to soil microbes, worms etc. On the other hand, ideally compostable plastics mineralize to CO2 and H2O. Thus, they do not add valuable minerals, nutrients or humic substances to the resulting composts. Hence composting of biodegradable plastics is disposal but not recycling! In this workshop we will address the following topics: i) We will give an overview on plastic pollution in the environment – especially in and along rivers and the relative contribution of bioplastic. ii) A comprehensive introduction into bioplastics and present main features of the test procedures that are used to investigate the content of biogenic carbon and the properties of degradability. iii) We will report on own results from laboratory-based investigations and field tests on degradability of different materials (e.g. plastic bags for collection of biowastes). iv) We will report and discuss the influence of micro- and bioplastics on soil physics and organisms. v) Based on the presented topics, we’ll organize discussion groups to exchange opinions and experience with plastic pollution and bioplastics. Introductory lectures:

  • G. Obersteiner (AT)

    Littering - (Bio)Plastics in the environment

  • E. Binner (AT)

    Definition of bioplastics, test proceedings for testing biodegradability, do we like biodegradable plastics in composting plants

  • C. Zafiu (AT)

    Laboratory and field studies on biodegradability of bioplastics

  • C. Zafiu (AT)

    Influence of microplastics on the soil and soil organisms