With more and more plastics being employed in human lives and increasing pressure being placed on capacities available for plastic waste disposal, the need for biodegradable plastics and biodegradation of plastic wastes has assumed increasing importance in the last few years. This review looks at the technological advancement made in the development of more easily biodegradable plastics and the biodegradation of conventional plastics by microorganisms. Additives, such as pro-oxidants and starch, are applied in synthetic materials to modify and make plastics biodegradable. Recent research has shown that thermoplastics derived from polyolefins, traditionally considered resistant to biodegradation in ambient environment, are biodegraded following photo-degradation and chemical degradation. Thermoset plastics, such as aliphatic polyester and polyester polyurethane, are easily attacked by microorganisms directly because of the potential hydrolytic cleavage of ester or urethane bonds in their structures. Some microorganisms have been isolated to utilize polyurethane as a sole source of carbon and nitrogen source. Aliphatic-aromatic copolyesters have active commercial applications because of their good mechanical properties and biodegradability. Reviewing published and ongoing studies on plastic biodegradation, this paper attempts to make conclusions on potentially viable methods to reduce impacts of plastic waste on the environment.
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