New ASTM regulations promise to set clear definitions, enabling scientists to develop truly degradable plastics

WASHINGTON--The growing public demand for truly biodegradable plastics has gone unfulfilled, in part because of a lack of agreement on what "biodegradability" means. But a new and comprehensive set of standards to define and measure such natural polymers, due out this spring, promises to help clear up the confusion within the scientific community as well as society at large.

"The new standards will help scientists to design new biodegradable plastics," says Ramani Narayan, chairman of the subcommittee on environmentally degradable plastics for the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which is developing the standards. Scientists across a broad spectrum of disciplines, from physics to ecology to chemical engineering, working in university and industry labs as well as at government research centers, expect the standards to improve their ability to design new plastics from natural...

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