Chemistry of Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable Polymers

Topics: Chemistry


The group presented information on their chosen topic, biodegradable and non-biodegradable polymers, by answering four knowledge questions contributed by each of the group’s members. These knowledge questions became the main concepts discussed in the report. The group arranged the concepts in this manner: introducing the chosen topic by discussing the fundamental concepts of biodegradable and non-biodegradable polymers, presenting the effects of these polymers in the environment, sharing some of the alternative uses of these polymers aside from the current ways in which these are used, and talking about the bodies that regulate these polymers in our country, Philippines, while relating it to the national issue of plastic pollution we are currently facing.

Chemical Composition of Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable Polymer

Before making the distinction between biodegradable and nonbiodegradable polymers, it is best to come to a clear understanding of what polymers are. Polymers are large molecules which are made up of repeating units called monomers. They can be natural (e.

g. wool, silk, etc.) or synthetic (e. g. ethylene, polyester, Teflon, etc.)

Biodegradable polymers eventually break down, and are often composed of ester, amide, or ether bonds. They break down due to a variety of factors including exposure to heat, oxygen, and light. The ideal biodegradable polymers must be non-toxic, stable while still in use, and degrade after disposal.

On the other hand, non-biodegradable polymers have the capacity to resist environmental degradation over prolonged periods of time. They are made up of long chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms; their strong interatomic bonding makes it difficult for microbed to destroy such bonds.

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While resistant to degradation, non-biodegradable may partly decompose, fragmenting into smaller particles which enter water systems and harm the environment. Some have attempted to dispose of non-biodegradable polymers by burning them, thu releasing carbon and other gases into the air.

Overall, biodegradable and non-biodegradable polymers are similar in the manner in which they are both composed of chains of monomers linked together. However, the strong bonds of hydrogen and carbon in non-biodegradable polymers make them difficult to break down.

The Positive and Negative Effects of Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable Polymers in the Environment (Acaso)

The positive effects of biodegradable in the environment are landfill sites are reduced, energy consumption is minimized, pollution is reduced and saves money. We do remember that, while people, animals, and the environment benefit from bio-degradation, it may cause a few problems. Because too much biodegradable waste in a water supply can deplete its oxygen. In addition, some types of biodegradable waste, such as cattle manure, can cause health and environmental concerns if too much is produced. Here are the negative effects of biodegradable in the environment:

Air pollution which produces foul smell during the decomposition process produces harmful gases like ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, etc., that can further-cause global warming.

Water Pollution – wherein microorganisms that break down biodegradable polymer can cause disease and produce. So, biodegradable waste needs to be treated with care.

We can say that biodegradable waste is safe because it is degradable meaning susceptible to chemical breakdown, biodegradable meaning capable of decaying through the action of living organisms and compostable meaning can be composted or used for composting.

The positive effects of non-biodegradable waste in the environment are the lifespan of materials, outgassing, contaminated groundwater with the help of petroleum based. On the other hand, the negative effects of non-biodegradable waste to the environment are effects on marine life, water pollution, outgassing, effects on the land, land pollution and air pollution, block drains, harm animals. Non-biodegradable waste is safe if it contains silicones, fluoropolymers, polyurethanes, vinyl, polycarbonate or polystyrene and harmful if it contains phthalates, BPA & BPA Substitutes (Bisphenol-A), PVC (Polyvinyl chloride).

Alternative Uses of Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable Polymers

There are five alternative ways of using biodegradable: composting, fuel, packaging, furniture and wood. Non-biodegradable can be recycled and used making new bottles and containers, plastic lumber, picnic tables, lawn furniture, playground equipment, recycling bins and more. It is used in making new plastic bags, park benches, backyard decks, and fences, t-shirts, sweaters, fleece jackets, insulations for jackets and sleeping bags and carpeting. They can be recycled and transform into batteries for cars, garden rakes, storage containers, reusable shopping bags, yarn, ropes, brooms and more. And innovative recycling programs can take foam packaging and turn it into plastic products such as insulation, picture frames, building products for your home and more. As we can see, it doesn’t mean that non-biodegradable waste is harmful, they don’t have any helpful used in our environment. But look, there are lots of things we can create through non-biodegradable waste.

Role of the Philippine Government

As we all know, there are different regulatory bodies of the government that makes law for proper management of our waste whether biodegradable or non-biodegradable. Here are some of the regulatory bodies of the government: PICCS (Philippine Inventory of Chemicals and Chemical Substances)- they are the ones responsible for listing all existing chemical substances used, sold, distributed, imported, manufactured, stored, exported, treated or transported in the Philippines. The latest edition of PICCS was issued in 2011 and it contains more than 46,000 chemical substances. We also have the DTI, DENR, DOST and more regulatory bodies responsible for the waste management in our country.

There is a chemical process industry that can be categorized into three:

  • Basic chemicals- which is said to be produced in large quantities and sold within the chemical industries before products become consumer items. Examples are chemicals derived from petroleum(petrochemical), polymers, basic inorganic (the low-cost chemical used by the manufacturers).

  • Specialty chemicals- chemicals used by industries. Examples are agricultural chemicals, paints and inks, dyes and pigments, textiles, papers, and engineering/electronics.

  • Consumer chemicals- these are chemical sold directly to the public. Examples are soap and detergent, personal care.

Polymers can be classified into rubber, plastic, PVC, and resins.

We also presented the chemical process overview that starts from raw materials proceed to the raw material storage then it undergoes to the chemical process/unit operations. Next is that it will be brought to the storage of the finished product for packaging, then they will transport and it will end up to the consumers. After the long process, consumers were able to use the products.

There are problems that might occur without managing properly our own wastes just like plastic pollution(microplastics), endangerment of wildlife and flooding. The possible solutions for those problems are proper waste management which can lessen the choking of landfills, no clogging of sewage systems, no incineration and less pollution of waterways, development of safe and sustainable alternatives like biodegradable polymers (bioMate) and the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Redesign which is for circular economy for turning plastic into raw materials.


We cannot completely rid the Earth of plastics (polymers), but we can do something about the pollution it causes.


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Cite this page

Chemistry of Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable Polymers. (2022, Aug 02). Retrieved from

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