Sustainability of Biodegradable Polymers for the Environment: An Alternative Approach for the Future

Sustainability of Biodegradable Polymers for the Environment: An Alternative Approach for the Future

Pinki Saini (University of Allahabad, India), Anchal Singh (University of Allahabad, India), Mazia Ahmed (University of Allahabad, India), Unaiza Iqbal (University of Allahabad, India), and Urvashi Srivastava (University of Allahabad, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4915-5.ch004
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With the ever-increasing population, there is exploitation of our environment to meet the growing needs of the inhabitants. Along with pollution, climate change, global warming, etc., one of the major problems associated with overpopulation is the generation of a large amount of non-biodegradable solid wastes along with various other industrial effluents. Plastic, being inexpensive and durable, have found their way to be produced in large amounts for almost every purpose. This results in the accumulation of plastic products around the world causing plastic pollution. During the past few centuries, the idea of “green chemistry” has gained maximum attention, and therefore, efforts have been made by the researchers to reduce pollution with the help of some environmentally friendly solution. In this concern, bioplastics and biofilms have gained remarkable attention over the last two decades. The major advantages of bioplastics are their biodegradability and the reduced emission of carbon dioxide in their synthesis.
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Nowadays, there is an increasing awareness related to the degrading environment, the negative impact of fossil fuels and waste management problems all over the world. These problems are the reason why biopolymers and their use are promoted for developing a sustainable environment. In fact, without environmental sustainability, there will be no sustainable development in the economy. Various researches have proven that non-biodegradable resources pose a grave risk to the existence of humans, plants, and animals as they generate greenhouse gases and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). While observing this scenario critically, it can be say that it is not necessary to exaggerate the significance of a safe and healthy environment concerning global sustainable development. It is a prerequisite on which the existence of humans and other living being lies. Biodegradable polymers are not a threat to the environment (along with its inhabitants) compared to petroleum-based synthetic polymers. Therefore, it can be said that there is an immediate need for the development of biodegradable polymers globally.

Earlier, the durability of plastics was considered as its key characteristic which has now become the major reason for the ambivalence of the environment. During early 1980 the problem of solid waste generation in form of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), shrinking of the landfill capacity and the rising cost of solid waste dumping (Philp et al., 2013; Regan, 1990) came out as a major problem in various regions of the United States. In the early 1960s, plastic goods made up to less than half a percent of MSW generation in the US. A report released by Central Pollution Control Board of India (2013), about 15342 tons of plastic waste is generated every day all over the country. In this only 5% plastics are recyclable and the rest pollute the all beings of environment. In several countries, plastics are found to be the fastest-growing element of solid waste. In cities, right after the food and paper wastes, plastic waste attains the third spot as a major component of municipal and industrial litter. For instance, Japan is also dealing with a similar problem of handling new waste because of the growing pressure on land and increasing public concern over environmental sustainability and health protection (Philp et al., 2013; Ishizaka and Tanaka, 2003).

The generation of greenhouse gases is another environmental factor in manufacturing plastic goods. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) postulates a reduction in the emission of CO2 by 80% (compared to 1990 level) to stabilize the GHG concentration at 450 ppm in the atmosphere by the year 2050 (Bashmakov et al., 2007). At the beginning of this century, the bio-based economy emerged first as a policy conception under the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), that linked renewable resources and bioprocesses by applying industrial biotechnologies for producing sustainable products, as well as job opportunities and income (Philp et al., 2013; OECD, 2001). It has been recently realized that ‘microplastics’ are getting accumulated in the environment, particularly oceanic environments (GESAMP, 2010). Microplastics potentially facilitate the exchange of various contaminants and have been shown to get consumed by various sea creatures. It is the greatest uncertainty that whether this will lead to the bioaccumulation of pollutant load (absorbed and plastic additives), or whether the microplastics corresponds as an additional and major vector for transferring contaminants.

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