The disposal of electronics comes with many sustainability issues and has been cause for public concern. Novel technologies that exhibit biodegradation are being heavily researched and developed. Before becoming commercially available, they have to undergo evaluations and be certified via the ISO 14855 standard. This standard evaluates the aerobic biodegradability of plastic materials. However, certification can be granted even when the biodegradable synthetic (co)polymers inhibit microbial activity under some conditions. This is particularly relevant given that many electronic devices are being disposed in low- and middle-income countries, where regulations often are comparatively lax.

To address this issue, the present research project aims to establish a standardized, simple workflow to study environmental biodegradation of sustainable organic electronic materials. Biodegradation will be studied in different environmental contexts, including freshwater, freshwater sediments, and soil. While the outcome of this study will contribute to the field of environmental sustainability and sustainable electronics research, it will also establish an interdisciplinary collaboration between materials science, organic chemistry, microbiology, and microbial ecology, as is the goal at the ECH. The established assessment workflow will be applicable to study environmental biodegradation for a number of devices manufactured from sustainable organic electronic materials.

Project Leader: Petra Pjevac, Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science

Co-PI: Laura Maggini, Department of Organic Chemistry