Cellulose acetate biodegradability upon exposure to simulated aerobic composting and anaerobic bioreactor environments

Ji Dong Gu, D. T. Eberiel, S. P. McCarthy, R. A. Gross*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Cellulose acetate (CA) films with degree of substitution (d.s.) values of 1.7 and 2.5 were exposed to biologically active in-laboratory composting test vessels maintained at approximately 53 °C. The CA 1.7- and 2.5-d.s. films (thickness values of ∼0.5-1.0 and 2.0 mil, respectively) had completely disappeared by the end of 7- and 18-day exposure time periods in the biologically active bioreactors, respectively. The relatively small CA film weight loss observed in the poisoned control test vessels allows the conclusion that CA film erosion during the composting exposures resulted, at least in part, from biologically mediated processes. Under strictly anaerobic conditions, an active methanogenic inoculum was developed by acclimation of a sewage sludge to a synthetic municipal solid waste (SMSW) mixture at 42°C. The CA 1.7-d.s. film samples (0.5- to 1.0-mil thickness) were exposed in anaerobic serum bottles containing a 25% solids loading of SMSW in which methanogenic activity was rapidly established after introducing of the developed inoculum. For exposures of 30 days only small visually distinguishable fragments of the CA 1.7-d.s. films were recovered. In contrast, exposure of the CA 1.7-d.s. film to a poisoned control test vessel resulted in negligible weight loss. Therefore, degradation of the CA 1.7-d.s. films upon exposure to the anaerobic bioreactors was due, at least in part, to biologically mediated processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-153
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Polymer Degradation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • anaerobic bioreactor
  • biodegradability
  • biodegradation testing
  • cellulose acetate
  • composting
  • degradation
  • methanogenesis
  • solid waste


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