Many people assume that it is the nature of all petrochemical based polymers to be not biodegradable simply because they are made from petroleum. This is not true. It is the manner in which the organic molecules are linked and the secondary properties of traditional 'plastic additives' which make petro-plastics slow to degrade. BASF Corp has designed and is commercially selling a petroleum based polymer that is readily biodegradable in compost heaps, whether used on its own (as pictured) or as a coating for a natural material like a paper crate or starch based container. Breakdown is apparently so complete the company describes it as a "fertilizer."
Researchers at BASF have developed the world's first food wrap that even acts as a fertilizer. It is made of the fully biodegradable plastic material Ecoflex®. Films and wrappings made of Ecoflex rot along with the organic waste. In the composting system, microorganisms decompose the plastic refuse and leave only natural residues like water, carbon dioxide and biomass behind.
Properties like resistance to water and grease make it feasible to use pure Ecoflex for trash bags, grocery bags and airtight films. The most common use, however, is to coat rigid fiber or paper packaging materials to prevent moisture or grease absorbtion.
The fact that the constituents are derived from petrochemicals has no effect on the biodegradability.
In principle, the arrangement of the components in Ecoflex corresponds precisely to that of chemical compounds that occur in nature. For that reason, a multitude of common microorganisms in soil and compost can break down the plastic. They decompose the Ecoflex structure into its original constituents and use them in the creation of natural metabolic products. As a result, after only three months in the composting system, water, carbon dioxide and biomass are all that is left of the synthetic material.
See Ecoflex product literature here.
Via::BASF Image credits::BASF product applications literature.