The degradation efficiency of biodegradable materials is affected by several factors, such as temperature, humidity, oxygen content, and microbial species. Microorganisms are an essential factor in biodegradable materials. They secrete different enzymes that recognize and degrade the molecular chains of biodegradable materials. The interaction of multiple enzymes gradually breaks down these molecular chains. This allows the material to gradually break down into smaller molecules or fragments for absorption and utilization. The decomposition of biodegradable materials produces simple compounds such as water, carbon dioxide, methane, and organic matter. These products are natural substances that already exist in the environment and have less impact on the ecosystem. According to a survey, common packaging materials available in the market, such as paper take 2-5 months to degrade, Plastic-coated paper milk cartons take five years, Tin cans take 50-100 years, Aluminium cans take 80-100 years, Plastic bags take 500 years to eternity, and so on. If compared with the degradation cycle of the packaging materials mentioned above, the degradation cycle of this material is considered a successful experiment if it is less than the minimum of 2-5 months. Therefore, small samples of biodegradable materials were placed in water, soil, and seawater to observe their degradation cycles under the same temperature, light, and oxygen conditions.

in Seawater

Experimental observations have shown that biodegradable materials decompose fastest in seawater over three weeks. However, if large quantities of biodegradable materials were disposed of in the sea for degradation, there would be a mountain of rubbish on the seashore. Even if the material is biodegradable, the decomposition process still involves the release of substances that can harm aquatic life. It may also upset the natural balance of the habitat. This is the paradox of the project up to this point. Although the degradation cycle is fast, the project’s original purpose must be met. It is vital to both ensure the biodegradability of the material and to minimize pollution of the environment.

Experiments on the degradation of small samples of biodegradable materials in seawater. From 12 Oct 2023 to 3 Nov 2023

in Water

The degradation cycle of biodegradable materials in water is also relatively fast, ranging from 1 to 4 months (the size of the material affects its degradation cycle). This data side-steps the fact that the project can continue. Although water itself is not biodegradable, it plays a crucial role in the biodegradation of materials. Many substances, including organic wastes and various materials, can be broken down by microorganisms in water. The necessary conditions are provided for microbial activity.

Experiments on the degradation of small samples of biodegradable materials in water. From 13 Oct 2023 to 12 Dec 2023

in soil

The material degraded slowly in the soil over 3 to 6 months (the size of the material affects its degradation cycle). But it also fulfills the project goal set at the beginning. Biodegradable materials can decompose in nature in a shorter period. This significantly reduces the ecosystem impact of the waste generated by the packaging.

Figure 5: Experiments on the degradation of small samples of biodegradable materials in soil. From 15 Sep 2023 to 5 Jan 2024