Biodegradable Polymers : Present Opportunities and Challenges in Providing a Microplastic-Free Environment
Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics. (2020) https://doi.org/10.1002/macp.202000017
The stability of polymers against environmental factors, chemicals, microorganisms, and hydrolysis has challenged society with the accumulation of plastic waste and its management worldwide. Large amounts of plastic litter accumulate in the environment and disintegrate into microplastics (small pieces less than 5 mm in size), a topic of real concern especially for products and applications where the plastics are used for a short time before becoming waste, and where they are difficult to recover after use and remain in the environment. Whether biodegradable polymers can be one of the solutions to the problem of plastic waste is a question very often raised in this context. Although the use of biodegradable polymers appears to be highly promising based on recent and past studies, several aspects need to be considered further regarding environmental sustainability, acceptability, and degradability in the complex natural environment. Intensive efforts need to be invested in developing new environmentally biodegradable polymers and smart mechanisms of degradation after use in the environment. The present viewpoint article discusses the present scenario of the environmental acceptability of biodegradable polymers and the opportunities and challenges they offer regarding solving the problem of microplastics and their impact on the environment.