I would like an example of a Biodegradable Polyethylene. I am using polylactic acid (PLA) as an example of a biopolymer/ bioplastic but I can not find a biodegradable polyethylene, that is a substance that contains polyethylene but has additives added so it biodegrades quicker

  • $\begingroup$ One word: "Impossible". Biodegradation has its special use cases, and is a fun subject, scientifically, but what you really need is thorough waste management system. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Mar 31, 2016 at 0:48

2 Answers 2


In a short research I found little to no evidence, that a there is polypropylene/polyethylene, that can actually be called biodegradeable. I have found a couple of articles that have this as a topic. I don't have the time to actually read all of them and since this is going to be to long for a comment, I'll share it as an answer.

  1. S. Bonhomme, A. Cuer, A-M. Delort, J. Lemaire, M. Sancelme, G. Scott, Polymer Degradation and Stability 2003, 81, 441–452.
    This is a general overview of the mechanisms of biodegradation of such materials.

  2. Ignacy Jakubowicz, Polymer Degradation and Stability 2003, 80, 39–43.
    This article investigates the degradation of polymers, which contain pro-oxidant additives. It mainly focusses on the kinetics of the thermo-oxidative degradation. I am certain you can learn from this article which kind of additives are used to make braking long polymers into oligomers easier and hence complete degradation faster.

  3. Prasun K. Roy, Minna Hakkarainen, Indra K. Varma, Ann-Christine Albertsson, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2011, 45 (10), 4217–4227.
    This article is very promising as it also deals with some long-term effects of polymers with pro-oxidative additives. The abstract already lays out the main problem, when talking about biodegradation: entering the eco-cycle harmlessly.

    However, the “degradable polyethylene” which is presently being promoted as an environmentally friendly alternative to the nondegradable counterpart, does not seem to meet this criterion. [...] It appears from the existing literature that our search for biodegradable polyethylene has not yet been realized.
    (Emphasis by me.)

All in all I think it is very important to carefully outline, what biodegradation is or should be. I hope these few articles can be a starting point for your further research.


The only type of PE I know that may degrade faster than the regular material is linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE). The branching in the chains would make it more susceptible to oxidation and subsequent scission of the chain like polypropylene. If you're a purist you might argue this is a copolymer and not true PE though.

  • $\begingroup$ it's ok if it is a copolymer, however i dont think linear low density polyethylene would be considered as 'biodegradable' I think it still takes a long time $\endgroup$
    – Mohamamd
    Oct 22, 2015 at 8:58

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