We are living in a plastic age. For most of us, life without polymers and plastics is unthinkable. However, in recent years the littering of plastics and the problems related to their persistence in the environment have become a major focus in both research and the news. Biodegradable polymers like poly(lactic acid) are seen as a suitable alternative to commodity plastics in order to minimize the impact of plastics on the environment after disposal. However, poly(lactic acid) is basically non‐degradable in seawater. Similarly, the degradation rate of other biodegradable polymers also crucially depends on the environments they end up in, such as soil or marine water, or when used in biomedical devices. In this review, we show that biodegradation tests carried out in artificial environments lack transferability to real conditions and, therefore, highlight the necessity of environmentally authentic and relevant field‐testing conditions. In addition, we focus on ecotoxicological implications of biodegradable polymers: Are there any possible adverse effects on biota caused by degradation products of the polymers? We also consider the social aspects and ask how biodegradable polymers influence consumer behavior and municipal waste management. Taken together, this study is intended as a contribution towards evaluating the potential of biodegradable polymers as alternative materials to commodity plastics.
Microplastics, Polyester, Ppolylactic Acid, Degradation, Polymers
Haider, T.; Völker, C.; Kramm, J.; Landfester, K.; Wurm, F.R. (2018): Plastics of the future? The impact of biodegradable polymers on the environment and on society. In: Angewandte Chemie International Edition, https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.201805766.