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Home Industry News UNSW develops new method to create biodegradable plastic

UNSW develops new method to create biodegradable plastic

3rd December 2019

Researchers at the University of New South Wales have developed a new strategy to generate bioplastics by transforming waste from pseudostems found in banana plants into biodegradable nancellulose which is then used as a raw material to fuel the process of making the bioplastics. The transformation is a significantly more eco-friendly way of using the 88% leftover waste from a banana tree, compared to just leaving it as general waste.

They tested a method which involved extracting cellulose to create a biodegradable, alternative to plastic packaging which could potentially be used to package food. The team discovered that the material could in-fact be an exceptional alternative to plastic food packaging with its baking paper like consistency.

Associate Professor from the UNSW School of Chemical Engineering, Jayashree Arcot, stated: “What makes the banana growing business particularly wasteful compared to other fruit crops is the fact that the plant dies after each harvest. We were particularly interested in the pseudo stems, basically the layered, fleshy trunk of the plant which is cut down after each harvest and mostly discarded on the field. Some of it is used for textiles, some as compost, but other than that, it’s a huge waste. The pseudo stem is 90% water, so the solid material ends up reducing down to about 10%. We bring the pseudo stem into the lab and chop it into pieces, dry it at very low temperatures in a drying oven and then mill it into a very fine powder. There are some options at this point, we could make a shopping bag for example. Or depending on how we pour the material and how thick we make it, we could make the trays that you see for meat and fruit. Except of course, instead of being foam it is a material that is completely nontoxic, biodegradable and recyclable. If the banana industry can come on board, and they say to their farmers or growers that there’s a lot of value in using those pseudo stems to make into a powder which you could then sell, that’s a much better option for them as well as for us.”

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