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Name: Cindy M.
Status: educator
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999-2001

What makes paper biodegradable?


Biodegradability simply means that soil microorganisms and natural weathering processes are capable of decomposing the paper into recyclable soil nutrients without leaving any harmful residues behind. Wood-fiber based paper is made with cellulose derived from the plant's structural material. Just as a log will rot if left to the effects of nature, paper made from woody material will likewise degrade. This is also true of paper made with cloth fibers which are of natural origin -- cotton, silk, linen, etc. All will biodegrade. If the paper contains any human made plastic fibers, it will be resistant to biodegradation because soil organisms are unable to break down the stronger chemical bonds present in synthetic materials.

ProfHoff 283

The prime ingredient in most all papers is cellulose of some type -- wood fiber, cotten fiber,etc. Many bacteria "eat" cellulose, there are enzymes that decompose the cellulose into its constituent sugar molecules. Certain animals -- cows, goats -- have these enzymes in their digestive system; humans do not. So ultimately it is the bacteria and enzymes that break cellulose into small sugars that are readily digested.

Vince Calder

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