Degradation of Cellulose Acetate-Based Materials: A Review


Cellulose acetate polymer is used to make a variety of consumer products including textiles, plastic films, and cigarette filters. A review of degradation mechanisms, and the possible approaches to diminish the environmental persistence of these materials, will clarify the current and potential degradation rates of these products after disposal. Various studies have been conducted on the biodegradability of cellulose acetate, but no review has been compiled which includes biological, chemical, and photo chemical degradation mechanisms. Cellulose acetate is prepared by acetylating cellulose, the most abundant natural polymer. Cellulose is readily biodegraded by organisms that utilize cellulase enzymes, but due to the additional acetyl groups cellulose acetate requires the presence of esterases for the first step in biodegradation. Once partial deacetylation has been accomplished either by enzymes, or by partial chemical hydrolysis, the polymer’s cellulose backbone is readily biodegraded. Cellulose acetate is photo chemically degraded by UV wavelengths shorter than 280 nm, but has limited photo degradability in sunlight due to the lack of chromophores for absorbing ultraviolet light. Photo degradability can be significantly enhanced by the addition of titanium dioxide, which is used as a whitening agent in many consumer products. Photo degradation with TiO2 causes surface pitting, thus increasing a material’s surface area which enhances biodegradation. The combination of both photo and biodegradation allows a synergy that enhances the overall degradation rate. The physical design of a consumer product can also facilitate enhanced degradation rate, since rates are highly influenced by the exposure to environmental conditions. The patent literature contains an abundance of ideas for designing consumer products that are less persistent in the outdoors environment, and this review will include insights into enhanced degradability designs.

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@inproceedings{Puls2011DegradationOC, title={Degradation of Cellulose Acetate-Based Materials: A Review}, author={Juergen Puls and Steven A. Wilson and Dirk H{\"{o}lter}, year={2011} }