PROJECT NEWS: Marine biodegradation testing is underway

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One of the objectives of the European project SEALIVE is to develop sustainable, biobased alternatives for conventional fossil-based plastic products for specific marine applications such as oyster mesh bags and fishing nets. As well as being biobased, these materials should also be industrially compostable and even biodegrade in the marine environment to prevent pollution in case of damage during use or accidental littering. To achieve this challenging concept, we need a much better understanding of how biobased, biodegradable polymers behave in the marine environment.

Several institutes across Europe have been working on developing standards and methodologies to test marine biodegradation and disintegration in the lab and have recently established standardization committees (ISO, ASTM) or certification institutes that specifically work on biodegradable plastics (e.g. TÜV AUSTRIA Belgium: OK Biodegradable Marine). In order to gain a better understanding of how applicable the lab tests are in the real environment, an elaborate program was set up by SEALIVE partner, OWS (Belgium). OWS investigates how biobased plastics such as PLA, PHBV, PBS, PBSA, and natural materials such as cellulose and cotton, degrade in the lab and compares their degradation in real-life marine conditions.

As part of the SEALIVE project, two marine test sites were selected, one in the Bay of Biscay in cooperation with SEABIRD (France) and the second in the Mediterranean Sea in cooperation with ISOTECH (Cyprus). During Summer 2022, the first batch of bioplastics was installed at both sites. The bioplastics are placed in special frames to allow their free movement and collected on a regular basis for testing. Samples are analysed by OWS to determine their degree of degradation. Biofilm formation is also analysed by Tomas Bata University (Czechia), and changes in mechanical properties are assessed by IPC (France). The experiment and testing will continue for at least 12 months to fully evaluate the bioplastics’ behaviour. SEABIRD will also use the two test sites to evaluate the degradation behaviour of their newly developed SEA®249, SEA®113 and SEA®214, specifically developed for marine applications such as the SEALIVE oyster mesh bags, fishing crates and fishing nets.

We’re looking forward to seeing the results!




Published 19/08/2022 | Last edited 25/10/2022

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