Is Polyolefin Biodegradable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: August 20, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Polyolefin is becoming an increasingly popular plastic because it is lightweight and inexpensive, but what effect is it having on our environment? Is polyolefin biodegradable?

Polyolefin is not biodegradable because it is made from synthetic materials that do not decompose easily. 

There is, however, a lot of research going into the development of biodegradable polyolefin. 

If polyolefin is not biodegradable, how eco-friendly is it? And what about polypropylene, is this a better option than polyolefin? Find out more about these polymers coming up next in this article.

Is Polyolefin Eco Friendly?

Polyolefin is becoming more and more popular. It is used a lot to make outdoor furniture because of its durability and its water resistance. 

It is also a lightweight plastic that is cheap to manufacture. Since it is making such a bold presence in modern society, many of us wonder whether this type of plastic is good for the environment. Is polyolefin eco-friendly?

But to answer that question, it is important to remember that polyolefin is a type of plastic. So, when compared to other materials, it is not classed as eco-friendly. 

Many would argue that it is the opposite of eco-conscious. However, when comparing polyolefin to other plastics, it is more eco-friendly than many of them. Why is that? Take a look at the following reasons:

  • Polyolefin is completely recyclable
  • It is a durable plastic
  • Different types of polyolefin can be recycled together which makes it easier to handle
  • Manufacturers are working to produce degradable polyolefins that will make the material more environmentally friendly

Can Polypropylene Be Biodegradable?

Polypropylene is a polymer that is regularly used in today’s society. It makes up tote bags, carpets, tape, clothing, and many more day-to-day items. 

Polypropylene is one of the most popular plastics that we use. Since polypropylene is so world-renowned, you may wonder what impact it might have on the environment. 

Is polypropylene biodegradable?

Polypropylene is not biodegradable because it is a synthetic material. The naturally occurring organisms and bacteria in the ground cannot break this polymer down. 

As a result, the material does not decompose. It sits in landfills for hundreds of years until it finally degrades into microplastics. 

Microplastics never fully break down but they degrade into the soil and groundwater.

What is the danger of these polypropylene microplastics sitting in our soil and groundwater? Well, when in contact with natural elements they disrupt our ecosystem. 

They interfere with wildlife and are often ingested by marine animals. Microplastics also get in the way of plant growth as they invade a plant’s natural habitat. 

So what needs to be done? More steps need to be taken to reduce the effect of polypropylene on the environment. How? By discouraging the use of the polymer in today’s society and replacing it with more eco-friendly options. 

More research needs to go into the development of degradable and even biodegradable polypropylene. Our planet is counting on this.

Can Polypropylene Be Biodegradable?

What Is the Difference Between Polyethylene and Polyolefin?

Polyethylene and polyolefin often get scooped into the same category because they are both popular polymers. 

They are both also used as plastic packaging for various products. But although polyethylene and polyolefin are similar, they are not the same. 

What are the differences between the two? Take a look at the table below to find out. 

What Is Polyethylene?What Is Polyolefin?
Polyethylene is a common thermoplastic polymerPolyolefin is a polymer material
It is made from ethylene monomersIt is made from small olefins otherwise known as alkene compounds
HDPE, LDPE, and LLDPE are the most common examples of polyethylenePolyethylene, polypropylene, polymethlypetane, and polybutene are the most common examples of polyolefins

Besides the differences between the two, polyethylene and polyolefin also have a lot of similarities. 

They are both made from alkene monomers. They are both hydrocarbons that are made from thermoplastic polymer materials. 

Both of these polymers are present in the production of shrink wrap, plastic containers, and milk cartons today.

What Plastics Are Biodegradable?

There is plastic on just about everything we buy at the supermarket. It makes up our carrier bags, our bottles, and even some of our furniture and bits around the home. 

With plastic being an ever-present member of society, more work needs to go into making it biodegradable. 

Most plastic does not biodegrade, it only degrades and this takes hundreds of years. 

With that said, there is a small group of biodegradable plastics in use today. Many are still under development and are being tested to improve their degradability. 

Scientists are trying to incorporate more biodegradable plastics into our day-to-day materials so that we can look after the environment better. 

This will affect our ecosystem and as a result our health.

But perhaps you are wondering, what plastics are biodegradable and what are they made from? The following is a list of biodegradable plastics. 

Check it out.

  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates. This is a biodegradable plastic produced by various microorganisms.
  • Polylactic acid. This is a polyester made from fermented plant starch. This is normally derived from corn, cassava, or sugarcane starch. It is also known to be extracted from beetroot starch.
  • Starch blends. These polymers are a combination of starch with plasticizers. 
  • Cellulose-based plastics. These plastics are modified to include cellulose.
  • Lignin-based polymer composites. These are bio-renewable polymers.

Final Thoughts

Polyolefin is a polymer that is gaining popularity all over the world. This is because of its resilience and its waterproof properties. 

It is also a lightweight and inexpensive material to make. But just because this polymer is budget-friendly, does not mean it is good for the planet. 

So, what are the long-term effects of this polymer? Is polyolefin biodegradable?

This article has explained that polyolefin is not biodegradable. 

This is because it is a synthetic material that microbes cannot break down. It does not decompose but rather degrades over hundreds of years into microplastics that infiltrate our soil and groundwater. 

We all hope that more research can go into the creation of biodegradable polyolefin that will support our planet.

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