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Use of mid- and near-infrared spectroscopy to track degradation of bio-based eating utensils during composting

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Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and mid-infrared spectroscopy (MIRS) have been used for quantitative and/or qualitative analysis of a wide range of materials. The objective of this study was to investigate the potential of MIRS and NIRS for following the degradation of bio-based food utensils during composting. Polylactide (PLA)–based forks lost 34% of their initial mass and were reduced to small friable fragments after 7 weeks of composting. NIRS and MIRS spectra of forks that were incubated for 7 weeks were nearly identical to spectra of untreated forks. NIRS and MIRS were more useful in following the degradation of a starch/polypropylene (PP) polymer. Spectral results demonstrated that the starch component degraded during composting and that the PP component was recalcitrant. These results confirm that MIRS and NIRS are useful in determining the composition of biobased materials. However, the spectra did not provide useful information about the extent of PLA polymer degradation.
Walter Mulbry , James B. Reeves , Patricia Millner
composting , food spoilage , ingestion , near-infrared spectroscopy , polypropylenes , qualitative analysis , starch
Bioresource Technology 2012 v.109
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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