Disintegration behaviour of bio-based plastics in coastal zone marine environments: A field experiment under natural conditions
The accumulation of plastic wastes in the marine environment represents a steadily increasing global environmental threat. The replacement of conventional plastics with bio-based biodegradable materials may contribute to alleviating the problem in the long run. This work studies the disintegration behaviour of three bio-based plastic materials, namely Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), Polybutylene sebacate (PBSe), Polybutylene sebacate-co-terephthalate (PBSeT), in three different coastal zone marine environments under natural conditions. The three studied environments were: 1) the seashore zone which is periodically covered by the seawater due to waves or tide, called eulittoral or intertidal zone; 2) the water column zone of small depth (about 10 m), called pelagic zone; and 3) the interface zone between the water column and the seabed sediment at small depth (about 20 m), called sublittoral or benthic zone. The experiments took place in the Aegean Sea at the SW coast of Salamis Island. The results showed that disintegration, as an indicative measure of biodegradation, occurs in all three tested environments, even though the rate depends on the material, the habitat, and the prevailing during the testing period environmental conditions. The degrees of disintegration of all materials in the three environments exhibited significant differences: Benthic > Intertidal > Pelagic. The observed disintegration can be attributed to biodegradation since the negative reference Low-density Polyethylene (LLDPE) material did not disintegrate.