Unfortunately, plastics are durable and degrade very slowly; the molecular bonds that make plastic so durable make it equally resistant to natural processes of degradation. However, new research has been done on biodegradable plastics that break down with exposure to sunlight, water or dampness, bacteria, enzymes, wind abrasion and some instances rodent pest or insect attack are also included as forms of biodegradation or environmental degradation. It is clear some of these modes of degradation will only work if the plastic is exposed at the surface, while other modes will only be effective if certain conditions exist in landfill or composting systems. Starch powder has been mixed with plastic as a filler to allow it to degrade more easily, but it still does not lead to complete breakdown of the plastic. Some researchers have actually genetically engineered bacteria that synthesize a completely biodegradable plastic, but this material, such as Biopol, is expensive at present. The German chemical company BASF makes Ecoflex, a fully biodegradable polyester for food packaging applications.
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