In recent years, the waste disposal problem has spurred mounting interest in the biodegradability of polymers & elastomers, especially when the public is voicing greater concern about protecting human health and preserving the quality of our environment. Concerns regarding the environmental impact of solid wastes, recycling and composting options are expected to increase as landfill capacity decreases. Managing waste is thus a challenge facing the global community. With reference to a research rubber waste make up approximately 8 percent of the total waste generated yearly, the tremendous amount of waste produced in general is a significant burden on the environment when considered in measurements more equitable to the impact tons of rubber discarded into landfills yearly.
Given the unique properties of rubber materials, the overall use of rubber for a large number of applications is constantly on the rise and becoming an ever increasing focus of concern. Rubber materials are also of increasing concern, not only in industrialized countries but also in less developed nations, rubber products are everywhere to be found, though few people recognize rubber in all of its applications. Since 1920, demand for rubber manufacturing has been largely dependent on the automobile industry, the biggest consumer of rubber products. With the increase in demands, the manufacturing and use of rubber and the rubber products has increased tremendously both in the developed and less developed countries. The use of rubber in so many applications results in a growing volume of rubber waste.
We need to integrate rubber materials into the natural cycle of biodegradation, an important aspect of any environmental approach to waste disposal as it is becoming more critical to address our solid waste as society grows and our use of rubber products expand. There are three methods considered appropriate, in the environmental sense, to dispose of various rubber wastes; Recycling, Incineration and Biodegradation.
Ultimately, the most interesting avenue of disposal is in landfill disposal and biodegradation of unwanted rubber materials; the ability to effectively biodegrade the wasted material is of paramount importance. Microbial degradation is a natural process by which organic compounds, including rubber polymers are converted by the action of bacteria to simpler compounds, mineralized and redistributed through the elemental cycles. Biodegradation is the biological breakdown of organic compounds by microorganisms into cell biomass and less complex compounds, and ultimately to water, and either carbon dioxide (aerobically) or methane (anaerobically).
Anaerobically biodegradable waste materials offer a unique value proposition when assessing waste management of landfilled materials and most rubbers are either landfilled or incinerated. The biodegrading material reduces in mass – freeing up valuable space in overflowing landfills. The resulting products of biodegradation, (water, carbon dioxide, methane, inert humus, etc.) are non-toxic and revert to the natural cycle. And, the methane produced is a highly valuable energy resource that is quickly gaining favor globally. There is tremendous push from waste management companies as well as municipalities to increase the use of methane to energy. Many companies and municipalities are utilizing the energy produced from methane created by biodegrading landfill waste as a green energy proposition in their overall environmental portfolio.
In conclusion, there is a tremendous need to address the ever growing issue of rubber waste and focus must be put on remediation of these wastes. Complete biodegradation of these materials may be the suitable answer, provided we are able to control the biodegradation in such a way that it does not impact the service life of rubber products. There has been substantial focus in the past as to the inherent biodegradation of natural rubber; and the focus here was to create synthetic biodegradable rubber materials. Testing clearly shows drastic increases in the rate of biodegradation in various synthetic rubbers when treated with the biodegradation being in anaerobic environments offers a unique waste disposal solution.
Additionally, the resulting methane production during the anaerobic biodegradation of these materials is commonly used for energy production to offset traditional energy sources, such as coal burning. This provides a method for reducing waste volume through biodegradation as well as benefiting environmentally for the byproduct of that biodegradation. For manufacturers and brands utilizing rubber materials, this presents an opportunity to provide environmentally focused waste management for the foreseeable future, in a way that requires very little direct action or input other than a slight change in materials.
At Kesaria we have taken the initiative to achieve a sustainable approach in handling of our waste materials in order to make a significant change in the environment by utilizing various techniques to implement biomimicry & achieve zero waste through full biodegradation that integrates in the natural carbon cycle while creating clean energy to offset fossil fuel use hence benefitting us as well as the environment.
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