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Bioresource Technology.
Vol. 102, No: 24, 2011, Pages: 11137 - 46.

Anaerobic digestion of starch-polyvinyl alcohol biopolymer packaging: biodegradability and environmental impact assessment.

Guo M, Trzcinski AP, Stuckey DC, Murphy RJ.

Department of Biology, Imperial College of Science and Technology and Medicine, London SW7 2AZ, UK.

Abstract

The digestibility of a starch-polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) biopolymer insulated cardboard coolbox was investigated under a defined anaerobic digestion (AD) system with key parameters characterized. Laboratory results were combined with industrial operational data to develop a site-specific life cycle assessment (LCA) model. Inoculated with active bacterial trophic groups, the anaerobic biodegradability of three starch-PVOH biopolymers achieved 58-62%. The LCA modeling showed that the environmental burdens of the starch-PVOH biopolymer packaging under AD conditions on acidification, eutrophication, global warming and photochemical oxidation potential were dominated by atmospheric emissions released from substrate degradation and fuel combustion, whereas energy consumption and infrastructure requirements were the causes of abiotic depletion, ozone depletion and toxic impacts. Nevertheless, for this bio-packaging, AD of the starch-PVOH biopolymer combined with recycling of the cardboard emerged as the environmentally superior option and optimization of the energy utilization system could bring further environmental benefits to the AD process.

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