What is the decomposition time of biodegradable plastic?

August 5, 2023
min read

Short answer

The decomposition time of biodegradable plastic can vary depending on various factors such as the specific type of plastic, environmental conditions, and disposal methods. However, on average, it can take anywhere from a few months to several years for biodegradable plastics to decompose.


Biodegradable plastic refers to a type of plastic that can be broken down by natural processes, such as microorganisms, into simpler compounds over time. The decomposition of biodegradable plastic occurs through a process known as biodegradation. This process involves the action of microorganisms, enzymes, and environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and oxygen availability.

In the first stage of decomposition, microorganisms colonize the surface of the biodegradable plastic. These microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, produce enzymes that break down the polymers present in the plastic. The enzymes catalyze the hydrolysis or oxidation reactions, breaking the larger polymer chains into smaller fragments. This initial stage is crucial as it creates more accessible sites for further degradation.

In the subsequent stage, the smaller plastic fragments undergo further degradation. Microorganisms continue to break down the intermediate products into even smaller molecules, such as organic acids. These organic acids are then metabolized by the microorganisms as an energy source, producing carbon dioxide, water, and biomass. This process of microbial assimilation and digestion leads to the complete decomposition of the biodegradable plastic, until only harmless and natural substances are left.

Overall, the decomposition of biodegradable plastic is a complex process that involves the combined effort of microorganisms, enzymes, and environmental conditions. It is important to note that the speed and efficiency of decomposition vary depending on factors such as the specific type of biodegradable plastic, external conditions, and the presence of microbial communities. Proper management of biodegradable plastics, such as creating conducive environments for decomposition and disposing them in appropriate waste streams, can facilitate the effective breakdown and recycling of these materials in a sustainable manner.

Is it possible to recycle biodegradable plastic?

Intresting facts

  • Biodegradable plastics break down through the action of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, which digest the material.
  • The decomposition process of biodegradable plastics can be significantly influenced by environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, and presence of oxygen.
  • Some biodegradable plastics can decompose in as little as a few months, while others may take several years, depending on the specific chemical composition and conditions.
  • Unlike traditional plastics, which are derived from fossil fuels and can persist in the environment for centuries, biodegradable plastics offer the potential to reduce the accumulation of plastic waste.
  • The decomposition of biodegradable plastics produces water, carbon dioxide, and organic matter, which can be utilized by other organisms in the ecosystem, contributing to the natural nutrient cycle.

Summary and final thoughts

Biodegradable plastic is designed to break down naturally over time. The decomposition process can vary based on the specific type of biodegradable plastic, environmental conditions, and the presence of necessary microorganisms. Generally, it can take anywhere from a few months to several years for biodegradable plastic to fully decompose. However, it is important to note that biodegradable plastic may not completely disappear, but rather break down into smaller pieces called microplastics. These microplastics can still have negative impacts on ecosystems and wildlife. Therefore, while biodegradable plastic is a step towards reducing plastic waste, it is crucial to prioritize the reduction, reuse, and recycling of all types of plastics, including biodegradable ones, to minimize their environmental impact.

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