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Biodegradable Polymers: Past, Present, and Future
Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.orgCitation: Paper number RRV03-0007, ASABE/CSBE North Central Intersectional Meeting. @2003
Authors: M Kolybaba, L G Tabil, S Panigrahi, W J Crerar, T Powell, B Wang
Keywords: biopolymer, biodegradable, plastic, agricultural products, biomaterial, recycling, life cycle, assessment, environmental impact, economic impact, compost
In recent years, there has been a marked increase in interest in biodegradable materials for use in packaging, agriculture, medicine, and other areas. In particular, biodegradable polymer materials (known as biocomposites) are of interest. Polymers form the backbones of plastic materials, and are continually being employed in an expanding range of areas. As a result, many researchers are investing time into modifying traditional materials to make them more user-friendly, and into designing novel polymer composites out of naturally occurring materials. A number of biological materials may be incorporated into biodegradable polymer materials, with the most common being starch and fiber extracted from various types of plants. The belief is that biodegradable polymer materials will reduce the need for synthetic polymer production (thus reducing pollution) at a low cost, thereby producing a positive effect both environmentally and economically. This paper is intended to provide a brief outline of work that is under way in the area of biodegradable polymer research and development, the scientific theory behind these materials, areas in which this research is being applied, and future work that awaits.