Methodology to Assess Silicone (Bio)Degradation and its Effects on Microbial Diversity
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The behavior of silicone elastomers in landfills has not been well studied. Their impact on the environment is not known and, consequently, it has not been possible to establish robust Life Cycle Assessments of these materials. In the first part of this study, a methodology for assessing silicone degradation pathways is described. The chemical and biological parameters were considered separately. Firstly, parameters such as pH, redox potential and cation concentration were monitored and then degradation in aerobic and anaerobic conditions was investigated. Any impacts on microbial diversity were also taken into account, using bio-molecular tools. In the second part, a case study on the degradation of Room Temperature Vulcanizable silicone elastomers was performed to validate this methodology. The results indicate that condensation catalysts play a key role at their end-of-life, in both chemical and biological degradation. Moreover, these compounds have a significant effect on microbial communities (similarities with blank samples <5 %). As a consequence, the choice of catalyst should be carefully considered to assess any environmental impacts.
KeywordsPolymer end-of-life Polymer degradation Silicone elastomers Silicone waste
The authors acknowledge the analytical department of the LGCIE for contributions to this study. The authors would also like to thank the Bluestar Silicones® Company, which supplied the elastomers and Dr. Valerie James for proofreading this article.
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