Possible hazards from biodegradation of soil plastic mulch: Increases in microplastics and CO2 emissions

Yaqiong Hao, Ju Min, Shengrong Ju, Xiaoping Zeng, Jiyuan Xu, Jianbing Li, Hailong Wang, Sabry M. Shaheen, Nanthi Bolan, Jörg Rinklebe, Weiming Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Biodegradable mulches are widely recognized as ecologically friendly substances. However, their degradation percentage upon entering soils may vary based on mulch type and soil microbial activities, raising concerns about potential increases in microplastics (MPs). The effects of using different types of mulch on soil carbon pools and its potential to accelerate their depletion have not yet well understood. Therefore, we conducted an 18-month experiment to investigate mulch biodegradation and its effects on CO2 emissions. The experiment included burying soil with biodegradable mulch made of polylactic acid (PLA) and polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT), and control treatments with traditional mulch (PE) and no mulch (CK). The results indicated that PE did not degrade, and the degradation percentage of PLA and PBAT were 46.2% and 88.1%, and the MPs produced by the degradation were 6.7 × 104 and 37.2 × 104 items/m2, respectively. Biodegradable mulch, particularly PLA, can enhance soil microbial diversity and foster more intricate bacterial communities compared to PE. The CO2 emissions were 0.58, 0.74, 0.99, and 0.86 g C/kg in CK PE PLA, PBAT, respectively. A positive correlation was observed between microbial abundance and diversity with CO2 emissions, while a negative correlation was observed with soil total organic carbon. Biodegradable mulch enhanced the transformation of soil organic C into CO2 by stimulating microbial activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133680
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Early online date6 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2024


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