Biodegradation of Biodegradable Polymers in Mesophilic Aerobic Environments
Biodegradable polymers derived from bio- and fossil-based sources have emerged as one feasible alternative to overcome inconveniences associated with the use and disposal of non-biodegradable polymers.
Finding alternatives to diminish plastic pollution has become one of the main challenges of modern life. A few alternatives have gained potential for a shift toward a more circular and sustainable relationship with plastics. Biodegradable polymers derived from bio- and fossil-based sources have emerged as one feasible alternative to overcome inconveniences associated with the use and disposal of non-biodegradable polymers. The biodegradation process depends on the environment’s factors, microorganisms and associated enzymes, and the polymer properties, resulting in a plethora of parameters that create a complex process whereby biodegradation times and rates can vary immensely. This review aims to provide a background and a comprehensive, systematic, and critical overview of this complex process with a special focus on the mesophilic range. Activity toward depolymerization by extracellular enzymes, biofilm effect on the dynamic of the degradation process, CO2 evolution evaluating the extent of biodegradation, and metabolic pathways are discussed. Remarks and perspectives for potential future research are provided with a focus on the current knowledge gaps if the goal is to minimize the persistence of plastics across environments. Innovative approaches such as the addition of specific compounds to trigger depolymerization under particular conditions, biostimulation, bioaugmentation, and the addition of natural and/or modified enzymes are state-of-the-art methods that need faster development. Furthermore, methods must be connected to standards and techniques that fully track the biodegradation process. More transdisciplinary research within areas of polymer chemistry/processing and microbiology/biochemistry is needed. Find more in this open-source article.