Novamont’s Mater-Bi bioplastic has been confirmed as being completely biodegradable in the marine environment within four to 12 months following a series of tests carried out in its own laboratories and by Hydra and the University of Siena.
The studies were carried out to answer the question of what happens if a bag made of Mater-Bi, which should be sent for composting at its end of life, ends up in the marine environment as litter.
Coordinated by Francesco Degli Innocenti, Novamont Director of Ecology of Products and Environmental Communication, the studies were divided into 3 areas: intrinsic marine biodegradability (Novamont laboratories), disintegration in the marine environment (Hydra) and ecotoxicity released into sediment as a result of biodegradation (University of Siena) of fruit and vegetable bags made of Mater-Bi.
The results of the tests, which were presented at a press conference in Rome on 2 July, showed that when Mater-Bi is exposed to marine microorganisms, it behaved in a similar way to cellulosic materials (e.g. paper) in terms of levels and timeframes of biodegradation, with biodegradation speeding up the smaller the dimensions of the item. Tests by Hydra showed that Mater-Bi fruit and vegetable bags totally biodegraded within one year, while researchers at the University of Siena showed that the process of breaking down the Mater-Bi did not generate or transfer toxic substances into marine sediments that could cause alterations in the growth of unicellular algae, embryotoxicity in sea urchins and oxidative stress or genotoxicity in sea bass.
Commenting on the findings, Catia Bastioli, Novamont CEO, said: “In less than a century we have gone from being an empty planet to a full planet in terms of population, concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, quantities of products placed on the market. If we want to tackle in a serious and concrete way the complex environmental and social challenges we are facing, we must think about value rather than volumes, in a logic of circular economy with soil and water quality at its core.
“The regeneration of these precious resources requires minimizing the use of products and rethinking them throughout their whole life cycle. Biodegradability in different environments is an essential characteristic when there is a high risk of pollution of organic matter, which, in a full world, must always be treated by an efficient network of plants. This allows the restoration of high-quality humus to the soil, with the dual effect of counteracting the loss of fertility and maximizing the carbon sink. An approach that allows at the same time to prevent water pollution, for 80 per cent caused by inadequate management of waste on land.”
Rosalba Giugni, president of Marevivo Association, added: “What is happening to the sea because of plastic is there under our eyes for all to see and a joint commitment is needed by the world of research and business to tackle the environmental degradation that involves the entire planet. We must not forget that the
only road to sustainable growth is the transition to a circular economy in which waste becomes a resource. But above all we must remember that we all have to behave responsibly and that each and every one of us must be aware of the consequences of
each single action. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that we dispose of waste correctly and do not simply discard waste of whatever kind into the environment.”