ASTM D7991 - 15

    Standard Test Method for Determining Aerobic Biodegradation of Plastics Buried in Sandy Marine Sediment under Controlled Laboratory Conditions

    Active Standard ASTM D7991 | Developed by Subcommittee: D20.96

    Book of Standards Volume: 08.03


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    Significance and Use

    5.1 Plastic is sometimes carried by rivers or accidentally discharged by ships into the sea; this plastic can then reach different parts of the marine environment. Tides and waves also frequently deliver plastic marine debris into the sandy tidal zones.

    5.2 This test method simulates the environmental conditions found in the tidal zone. Plastic debris that reaches the sandy tidal zone can settle there and become partially or totally buried by sand and kept wet by waves or tides. It is of interest to assess the biodegradation behavior of plastic materials under these conditions to predict the removal time of this waste in the environment.

    5.3 This test method is applied to determine the extent of biodegradation of a plastic exposed in the laboratory to a sandy sediment kept wet with seawater. Both sediment and seawater are collected from a sandy beach in the tidal zone. If the natural microbial population present in the sediment is able to biodegrade the plastic, there will be an evolution of CO2 as a consequence of the aerobic microbial respiration. The level of biodegradation at any given time is the ratio between the cumulative amount of the evolved net carbon dioxide and the theoretical amount produced in the case of total conversion of the organic carbon present in the plastic into carbon dioxide.

    5.4 This test method does not measure the amount of organic carbon that is converted into biomass, but only the biodegradation that leads to mineralization (that is, the formation of CO2).

    1. Scope

    1.1 This test method determines the biodegradation level of plastic materials exposed to laboratory conditions that simulate the environment found in the sandy tidal zone.

    1.2 The tidal zone, that is, the part of the coast affected by the tides and movement of the waves, is the borderline between sea and land, frequently a sandy area that is kept constantly damp by the lapping of the waves. Stony and rocky shorelines also exist.

    1.3 Plastic marine debris is frequently washed up in this habitat where it must be removed in order to restore the original landscape.

    1.4 It is of interest to know the biodegradation behavior of plastics when exposed to conditions simulating this habitat, because this information can help in predicting the time needed for the biodegradation of the litter.

    1.5 Biodegradation is determined by measuring the CO2 evolved by the plastic material when exposed to a sediment kept wet with salt-water in a reactor, to simulate the tidal zone.

    1.6 Marine fresh-water habitats (for example, those found in brackish waters and estuaries) are not considered by this standard.

    1.7 Reports shall clearly state the percentage of net CO2 generation for both the test and reference samples at the completion of the test. Furthermore, in the laboratory reports, the results shall not be extrapolated beyond the actual duration of the test.

    Note 1: There is no known ISO equivalent to this standard.

    1.8 Units—The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as standard. No other units of measurement are included in this standard.

    1.9 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    ASTM Standards

    D5988 Test Method for Determining Aerobic Biodegradation of Plastic Materials in Soil

    ISO Standards

    ISO 8245 Water quality Guidelines for the determination of total organic carbon (TOC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC)


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 83.080.01 (Plastics in general)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code


    Referencing This Standard
    Link Here
    Link to Active (This link will always route to the current Active version of the standard.)

    DOI: 10.1520/D7991-15

    Citation Format

    ASTM D7991-15, Standard Test Method for Determining Aerobic Biodegradation of Plastics Buried in Sandy Marine Sediment under Controlled Laboratory Conditions, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2015, www.astm.org

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