Sam Deconinck

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San Deconinck

Sam Deconinck 
Deputy Lab Manager, OWS


The Bio-end-of-life of PLA: Beyond Industrial Composting

Polylactic acid (PLA) is one of the most widely-used bioplastics in the world and especially interesting for non-durable applications such as food packaging. As a compostable polymer, it adds environmental advantages to those products where biodegradability offers an asset. The PLA currently on the market, however, is only biodegradable under industrial composting conditions and not readily degradable in home composting due to PLA’s requirement for an elevated temperature (50-55°C) to start the first hydrolysis step. This temperature is easily reached during industrial composting since it is also required for hygienization, but is not reached during home composting. Compostable products, however, are rarely produced using one single polymer and are mostly a combination of different polymers. As a result, it makes sense to study the biodegradation behavior of PLA blends to identify a possible synergistic (or antagonistic) effect under home composting conditions. Research performed as part of the European project Synpol showed that while PLA on its own does not biodegrade under home composting conditions, PLA, when blended with polycaprolactone (PCL) in a 80:20 ratio, is home compostable. This synergistic effect, however, does not occur for all combinations of polymers.

The second part of the presentation will address anaerobic digestion (AD), another bio-end-of-life option for PLA, which is receiving increased attention and is becoming more and more important in the (bio)waste industry. PLA, on its own, as well as blended with other biopolymers, has been tested for biodegradation under thermophilic anaerobic digestion conditions showing indications of, at least, partial biodegradation.

About Sam Deconinck

Sam Deconinck obtained a Masters degree in Bioscience Engineering with a specialization in Environmental Technology in 2005 at the State University of Ghent in Belgium. After being responsible for the planning, follow-up and reporting of biodegradability and compostability testing for a couple of years, Sam became head of the Marketing and Sales team in 2009 and is since responsible for providing customers with tailored advise on biodegradability and compostability testing and certification. He represents OWS in several expert committees both in Europe, US and on international level. Since 2017, Sam holds the position of Deputy Lab Manager.


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