Influence of Processing Additives on the Degradation of Melt-Pressed Films of Poly(ε-Caprolactone) and Poly(Lactic Acid)

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Melt-pressed films of polycaprolactone (PCL) and poly(lactic acid) (PLA) with processing additives, CaCO3, SiO2, and erucamide, were subjected to pure fungal cultures Aspergillus fumigatus and Penicillium simplicissimum and to composting. The PCL films showed a rapid weight loss with a minor reduction in the molecular weight after 45 days in A. fumigatus. The addition of SiO2 to PCL increased the rate of (bio)erosion in A. fumigatus and in compost. The use of a slip additive, erucamide, was shown to modify the properties of the film surface without decreasing the rate of bio(erosion). Both the rate of weight loss and the rate of molecular weight reduction of PCL increased with decreasing film thickness. The addition of CaCO3 to PLA significantly reduced the thermal degradation during processing, but it also reduced the rate of the subsequent (bio)degradation in the pure fungal cultures. PLA without additives and PLA containing SiO2 exhibited the fastest (bio)degradation, followed by PLA with CaCO3. The degradation of the PLA films was initially governed by chemical hydrolysis, followed by an acceleration of the weight change and of the molecular weight reduction. PLA film subjected to composting exhibits a rapid decrease in molecular weight, which then remains unchanged during the measurement period, probably because of crystallization.

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