CSP investigator Melissa Maurer-Jones and her team have recently conducted research aimed to identify whether PLA undergoes changes in its structure when weathered, as might occur during usage or environmental disposal, and how such changes could impact enzyme-mediated polymer breakdown. The study revealed that UV-light weathering actually enhances enzyme breakdown of PLA, contrary to the initial prediction, which assumed that UV-light would make the polymer too crystalline to facilitate enzyme breakdown. The observed effect is likely attributed to the reduction in the molecular weight of the polymer.
The increasing demand for environmentally friendly bioplastics is leading to a rise in waste generated from these products. PLA, as the predominant commercially available bioplastic, is extensively utilized in single-use items such as cutlery and plastic bags.
The full paper is available on ACS Materials Au.