Biodegradation of Plastics: Monitoring what Happens

  • Anthony L. Andrady
Part of the Polymer Science and Technology Series book series (POLS, volume 1)


Biodegradation refers to the process of chemical breakdown of a substance due to the action of living organisms. Generally, it is the action of microorganisms present in soil, water or special environments such as compost heaps that is responsible for biodegradation. These environments support large populations of different varieties of bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes species [1]. The chemistry of the breakdown process varies with the substrate in question, but in the case of polymers usually involves an initial breakdown of the linear chain-like molecules into smaller units. These smaller units may in turn be further biodegraded in one or more steps, invariably yielding small inorganic molecules, mainly carbon dioxide, water and ammonia (where the substrate is nitrogeneous). The process of complete biodegradation of a polymer or any organic material can be represented by the following simple chemical process.


biodegradation bacteria fungi actinomycetes anaerobic processes metabolism biodeterioration cellulose biomass algae mineralization incubation inoculum 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

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  • Anthony L. Andrady

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