Polymateria DegrAid – The Panacea For Biodegradable Plastic Packaging?

December 11, 2020 2:21 pm Published by

With thirty years of experience in the packaging industry and a commitment to providing our customers the means to reduce their environmental impact Protos have a well tested and well established range of eco-friendly material options.

The ProGanic range of materials; including ProGanicPLA (Made from corn and potato starch) and ProGanicCello (Made from wood pulp) has allowed Protos (and more importantly – our customers) to remain at the forefront of sustainable packaging. What we’d like to explore today is a new contender to the lineup, a material additive that allows standard BOPP (ProPylene) to achieve the “holy grail” status of sustainability – being fully biodegradable without compromising the existing circular economy. Additionally and importantly, there is zero impact to machinability, negligible impact to weight, no impact to the intrinsic material properties/specifications and relatively minimal impact to cost. Sounds too good to be true right?

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Polymateria Degraid Protos Packaging Waste Diagram

What is Polymateria DegrAid?

Polymateria DegrAid is an additive deployed at the extrusion stage of the manufacturing process. It’s designed to remain stable until it hits a predetermined time trigger (6-24 months) before breaking down into a harmless wax which is then consumed by microbes in the environment – leading to an output of carbon dioxide and water (and presumably happy microbes). Importantly it leaves no microplastics at the end of the process! Polymateria DegrAid requires no change to existing supply chains, maintains product performance and functionalities and maintains the ability for circular economy application. In short it was designed to solve instances where recycling is not an option.

Polymateria DegrAid™ is fully compliant with FDA and EU regulations for contact with food (EU regulation 10/2011). DegrAid also complies with OECD 207, 222 standards for acute and chronic effects on earthworms and plants, alongside compiling with OECD 202, 211 for freshwater acute and chronic toxicity on Daphnia.

Polymateria DegrAid vs Natureflex vs PLA – Biodegradable Plastic Comparison

  Made From Compost-ability Properties Price Recyclability Shelf Life
PLA Corn Starch Industrially Compostable Heat Weldable
Heat Sealable
370% more expensive
37% heavier
Not recyclable, damages existing recycling streams 6 months according to official extruders specifications.
Natureflex Wood Pulp Home Compostable Heat Sealable 380% more expensive
38% heavier
Not recyclable 6 months according to official extruders specifications.
DegrAid N/A Biodegradable Same as base material, no impact to existing properties 30% more expensive*
2% heavier
Recyclable, does not damage existing recycling streams 6-24 months

Contact us for detailed specification sheets on all of the above.


How does Polymateria DegrAid work?

Polymater Degraid Protos Packaging Masterbatch

The Simple Explanation

Polymateria’s DegrAid utilises a three-stage biotransformation process, centred around the product life cycle; where dormant technologies are introduced at the manufacturing stage. Following the end of product shelf-life, activation causes the material to breakdown into a bioavailable wax. This wax can then be digested by naturally occurring bacteria under normal temperatures. Digestion produces carbon dioxide and water only; with no microplastics being produced, unlike through traditional processes.


The Technical Explanation

Protos Packaging Polymateria Lab Photo

Polymateria has utilised Biotransformation to develop DegrAid. Biotransformation is the only technology currently capable of degrading PP and PE both safely and fully, using a new generation

 catalytic system to transform hard crystalline and amorphous structures into a bioavailable wax. Capable of fully biodegrading PE films within 226 days and PP rigid materia

ls within 336 days (Verified by independent laboratories to ISO/IEC 1 7025).

DegrAid can achieve full biodegradation without impacting recyclability, avoiding impeding the circular economy and Polymateria DegrAid has no impact on product performance or functional benefits. Three Phase implementation allows the product lifecycle to remain unaffected, utilising activation during Phase 2. The introduction of ‘Recycle by Date’ empowers consumers through call to action, whilst ensuring material meets necessary shelf life.

Phase 1

Dormant technologies are formulated as a Masterbatch drop-in, each formula tailored to resin footprint. Application and required use is considered through the use of Arrhenius equation. Dormant nature of the technology allows the product to show no adverse impact on recycling, tested using ‘Recyclass’ recyclability evaluation protocol. DegrAid has an expected increase of two percent to typical loading weight.

Pass / Fail criteria of chemical analysis undertaken post weathering Bioavailable wax chemical characteristics
Carbonyl Index (CI) > 1 Hydrophilic anchor points increase, allowing microorganisms to easily mass colonise
Loss in % Mw > 90% Loss of > 90% of links in polymer chains
Mn < 5000 Da Ultra-low molecular weight waxes that bacteria and fungi are able to absorb and digest
Mz < 30,000 Reduction in high molecular weight chains

Phase 2

Upon activation, following product shelf-life, activation leads to rapid loss of physical properties. Where exposing greater surface area aids the development of bioavailable wax. Attack of crystalline and amorphous region of polymer converts plastic into bioavailable wax (Standards used for UV weathering: ASTM D4329 / ISO 4892-3. Standards used for Xenon-arc weathering: ASTM D2565 / ISO 4892-2.) (Polymateria, 2020).

Formed bioavailable wax has been examined for environmental safety within varying ecosystems. Waxes have been tested for acute and chronic eco-toxicity in both social and water environments. Safety of low-density ethylene and propylene waxes demonstrated through the following OECD tests:

Acute / Short term exposure to wax Chronic / Long Term exposure to wax
OECD 2020 OECD 208
OECD 207 OECD 220 / ISO EN 17512
OECD 236 OECD 222

Phase 3

Naturally occurring bacteria and fungi transform bioavailable wax under natural mesophilic or ambient temperatures through mineralization, (Biodegradation testing performed under international standards of ASTM D5988 and ISO 17556 (Polymateria, 2020)) resulting in an output of water and biomass. PE and PP films and rigids capable of full biodegradation within two years, as verified by third-party laboratories; with no resultant of microplastics. Thus, meeting the internationally accepted requirement of 90% biodegradation.

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This post was written by James Fussell