Compostability certification of polymers is time-consuming and expensive. Approaches to accelerating the biodegradation of these polymers in simulated composting conditions can facilitate and speed up evaluating potential compostable polymers.
Biodegradation of polymers in composting conditions is an alternative end-of-life scenario for contaminated materials collected through the municipal solid waste management system, mainly when mechanical or chemical methods cannot be used to recycle them. Compostability certification requirements are time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, approaches to accelerate the biodegradation of these polymers in simulated composting conditions can facilitate and speed up the evaluation and selection of potential compostable polymer alternatives and inform faster methods to biodegrade these polymers in real composting. This review highlights recent trends, challenges, and future strategies to accelerate biodegradation by modifying the polymer properties/structure and the compost environment. Both abiotic and biotic methods show potential for accelerating the biodegradation of biodegradable polymers. Abiotic methods, such as the incorporation of additives, reduction of molecular weight, reduction of size, and reactive blending, are potentially the most straightforward, providing a level of technology that allows for easy adoption and adaptability. Novel methods, including the concept of self-immolative and triggering the polymer chains in specific conditions, are increasingly sought. In terms of biotic methods, dispersion/encapsulation of enzymes during the processing step, biostimulation of the environment, and bioaugmentation with specific microbial strains during the biodegradation process are promising to accelerate biodegradation.