Polyester-Based (Bio)degradable Polymers as Environmentally Friendly Materials for Sustainable Development
Materials based on polystyrene and starch copolymers are used in food packaging, water pollution treatment, and textile industry, and their biodegradability is a desired characteristic. In order to examine the degradation patterns of modified, biodegradable derivates of polystyrene, which may keep its excellent technical features but be more environmentally friendly at the same time, polystyrene-graft-starch biomaterials obtained by emulsion polymerization in the presence of new type of initiator/activator pair (potassium persulfate/different amines) were subjected to 6-month biodegradation by burial method in three different types of commercially available soils: soil rich in humus and soil for cactus and orchid growing. Biodegradation was monitored by mass decrease, and the highest degradation rate was achieved in soil for cactus growing (81.30%). Statistical analysis proved that microorganisms in different soil samples have different ability of biodegradation, and there is a significant negative correlation between the share of polystyrene in copolymer and degree of biodegradation. Grafting of polystyrene on starch on one hand prevents complete degradation of starch that is present (with maximal percentage of degraded starch ranging from 55 to 93%), while on the other hand there is an upper limit of share of polystyrene in the copolymer (ranging from 37 to 77%) that is preventing biodegradation of degradable part of copolymers.