The use of biodegradable textiles certainly reduces environmental impact, but what exactly do we mean when we speak of a biodegradable material? A biodegradable material is one that can break down in nature into natural chemical elements. This process may be the result of the action of biological agents such as plants, bacteria or animals, along with other physical agents such as the sun or water that transform the substances into compounds that serve as nutrients for the environment.
There are more and more initiatives coming on stream in which textile companies are using biodegradable materials, just as the consumer is also looking for environmentally friendly garments and textiles.
Biodegradability can be established for a range of media
Biodegradability can be established for a range of media, and will differ depending on where the material ends up when it is disposed of: in the soil (burying), water (salt or fresh water), landfill (industrial or domestic compost) or sewage treatment plants (activated sludge). The biodegradation of the compounds can occur in two ways:
- Aerobic biodegradation is the degradation of an organic compound into carbon dioxide, water, mineral salts and new biomass by the action of micro-organisms in the presence of oxygen.
- Anaerobic biodegradation is the degradation of organic matter through the joint action of various micro-organisms in the absence of oxygen.
To ensure that products are biodegradable and harmless to the environment, different test methods have been developed to determine the biodegradability of textiles.
These tests and regulations are an excellent way for companies to show that they are at the forefront of sustainability, and keen to respond to consumer demands for compostable and biodegradable articles.