Date of this Version
Zykova, A.K.; Pantyukhov, P.V.; Mastalygina, E.E.; Chaverri-Ramos, C.; Nikolaeva, S.G.; Saavedra-Arias, J.J.; Popov, A.A.; Wortman, S.E.; Poletto, M. Biocomposites of Low-Density Polyethylene Plus Wood Flour or Flax Straw: Biodegradation Kinetics across Three Environments. Polymers 2021, 13, 2138. https://doi.org/10.3390/ polym13132138
The purpose of this study was to assess the potential for biocomposite films to biodegrade in diverse climatic environments. Biocomposite films based on polyethylene and 30 wt.% of two lignocellulosic fillers (wood flour or flax straw) of different size fractions were prepared and studied. The developed composite films were characterized by satisfactory mechanical properties that allows the use of these materials for various applications. The biodegradability was evaluated in soil across three environments: laboratory conditions, an open field in Russia, and an open field in Costa Rica. All the samples lost weight and tensile strength during biodegradation tests, which was associated with the physicochemical degradation of both the natural filler and the polymer matrix. The spectral density of the band at 1463 cm−1 related to CH2 -groups in polyethylene chains decreased in the process of soil burial, which is evidence of polymer chain breakage with formation of CH3 end groups. The degradation rate of most biocomposites after 20 months of the soil assays was greatest in Costa Rica (20.8–30.9%), followed by laboratory conditions (16.0–23.3%), and lowest in Russia (13.2–22.0%). The biocomposites with flax straw were more prone to biodegradation than those with wood flour, which can be explained by the chemical composition of fillers and the shape of filler particles. As the size fraction of filler particles increased, the biodegradation rate increased. Large particles had higher bioavailability than small spherical ones, encapsulated by a polymer. The prepared biocomposites have potential as an ecofriendly replacement for traditional polyolefins, especially in warmer climates.