Evaluation of the Biodegradation of Starch and Cellulose Under Controlled Composting Conditions

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Abstract

In order to verify the response of the controlled composting test method (i.e., the ISO/DIS 14855:1997, the ASTM D 5338-92, or the CEN counterpart) to starch at different concentrations, the maximum amount prescribed by the test method (100 g) and lower amounts (60 and 30 g), as if starch were a coingredient in a blend, were tested. After 44 days of incubation (at a constant temperature of 58°C) the biodegradation curves were in a plateau phase, displaying the following final values (referred to a nominal starch initial amount of 100 g): starch 100 g, 97.5% starch 60 g, 63.7%; and starch 30 g, 32.5%. The data show a CO2 evolution roughly equal, in each case, to the theoretical maximum, indicating a complete starch mineralization. We cannot discern whether the deviations found at lower concentrations are caused by a priming effect. In any case, the extent of the deviations is not high and is acceptable in biodegradation studies. The average biodegradation of cellulose, obtained gathering four independent experiments with 11 biodegradation curves, turned out to be 96.8 ± 6.7% (SD) after 47 ± 1 days. The data indicate that the controlled composting is a reliable test method also for starch and cellulose and, consequently, for starch-based and cellulose-based materials.

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