The dependency of many industries on single-use materials, has led to an accumulation of plastic waste and subsequent harm to the planet. Since avoidance of plastic is often not viable and the current processes of recycling have their own environmental impact, many have looked toward development of sustainable replacements for plastics. Homogenous blended polymers made from varied ratios of polycaprolactone (PCL), starch, and biochar were made in the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Packaging Science Department, tested for percent weight loss and for carbon dioxide (CO2) evolution in soils. Testing was done across three burial matrices: soil amended with compost starter, soil with 30% pulverized food waste, and soil with 30% spent coffee grounds. Percent weight loss derived from burial experiments food waste and soil with compost starter show a positive correlation between material degradation and starch content. However, burial experiments with a coffee amended environment did not lead to as high of percent weight loss. CO2 evolution showed samples of 45% starch/ 45% PCL/ 10% biochar producing the highest cumulative amount (346.9mg) over 120 days. Fungal and bacterial isolates from the burial experiments show the most diversity in food and soil environments, as well as more species of interest (used in bioremediation or found to degrade polymers) compared to the coffee environment.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Polymers--Biodegradation; Plastic scrap--Biodegradation; Compost; Bioremediation

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Environmental Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)


Jeffrey Lodge

Advisor/Committee Member

Carrie McCalley

Advisor/Committee Member

Carlos Diaz-Acosta


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes