Breaking It Down: How Thermoplastic Starch Enhances Poly(lactic acid) Biodegradation in Compost─A Comparative Analysis of Reactive Blends

Blending PLA with thermoplastic starch promotes sustainable biodegradation of PLA under mesophilic and thermophilic conditions without creating microplastics.

Thermoplastic starch

Breaking It Down: How Thermoplastic Starch Enhances Poly(lactic acid) Biodegradation in Compost─A Comparative Analysis of Reactive Blends

Pooja C. Mayekar, , Wanwarang Limsukon, Anibal Bher, and Rafael Auras*

School of Packaging, Michigan State University, 448 Wilson Road, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, United States

Poly(lactic acid) (PLA) is a sustainable, bio-based, and industrially compostable polymer with a recalcitrant abiotic degradation phase, limiting its organic recovery to well-managed industrial composting facilities. We present a methodology to fully biodegrade PLA in industrial and home composting settings. Thermoplastic starch (TPS) and PLA were reactively blended by adding a chemical modifier and peroxide radicals to obtain a PLA-g-TPS blend by twin screw extrusion and later processed into films by cast extrusion. Biodegradation of the films was investigated using a direct measurement respirometer for 180 days by tracking the CO2 evolution in compost media at 58 and 37 °C, and the number average molecular weight (Mn) reduction was measured by size exclusion chromatography. The hydrophilic nature of TPS and its role as a nutrient source accelerated the degradation of PLA in both abiotic and biotic phases of the composting process. The kinetic curve of Mn reduction showed the positive effect of TPS on accelerating PLA hydrolysis during the lag phase in both mesophilic and thermophilic conditions due to increased chain mobility. This work unlocks the capability of PLA-based films to be successfully composted in industrial and home composting without compromising their desired properties for applications in everyday life. If you want to read the article, please check this link.

This article originally came from the School of Packaging.

About the MSU Innovation Center: 

The MSU Innovation Center is dedicated to fostering innovation, research commercialization, and entrepreneurial activities from the research and discovery happening across our campus every day. We act as the primary interface for researchers aiming to see their research applied to solving real-world problems and making the world a better place to live. We aim to empower faculty, researchers, and students within our community of scholars by providing them with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to bring their discoveries to the forefront. Through strategic collaborations with the private sector, we aim to amplify the impact of faculty research and drive economic growth while positively impacting society. We foster mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with the private sector through corporate-sponsored research collaborations, technology licensing discussions, and support for faculty entrepreneurs to support the establishment of startup companies.   

Is your company interested in partnering with the MSU School of Packaging on green packaging research? Click Here

Back To Top