Closer To An Alternative For Plastic Packaging

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Yale e360, with news like this, titles it carefully:

Scientists Say They Have Found a Viable Replacement for Petroleum-Based Plastic

Scientists at Ohio State University say they have developed a viable alternative to petroleum-based plastic food packaging by using natural tree-based rubber. According to the researchers, the new biodegradable material holds promise for fighting the world’s growing plastic pollution problem, as well as for helping curb our reliance on fossil fuels.

The original source, with slightly more flowery language, titles it as if packaging can be friendly to the environment. The way we use packaging, not so. But we will take what we can get at this point:

Study shows potential for Earth-friendly plastic replacement

New biodegradable ‘plastic’ is tough, flexible

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The new bioplastic and rubber blend devised by Ohio State researchers proved much more durable than the bioplastic on its own

The quest to keep plastic out of landfills and simultaneously satisfy the needs of the food industry is filled with obstacles.

A biodegradable replacement for petroleum-based products has to meet all sorts of standards and, so far, attempts at viable replacements from renewable sources have faced limited success due to processing and economic constraints. Among the obstacles, products to date have been too brittle for food packaging.

But new research from The Ohio State University has shown that combining natural rubber with bioplastic in a novel way results in a much stronger replacement for plastic, one that is already capturing the interest of companies looking to shrink their environmental footprints.

Almost all plastics – about 90 percent – are petroleum-based and are not biodegradable, a major environmental concern.

In a new study published in the journal Polymers, the research team reports success with a rubber-toughened product derived from microbial fermentation that they say could perform like conventional plastic. This new study highlights the greatest success in this area so far, according to the scientists.

“Previous attempts at this combination were unsuccessful because the softness of the rubber meant the product lost a lot of strength in the process,” said lead author Xiaoying Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher in Ohio State’s Department of Food Science and Technology.

The new study involved melting rubber into a plant-based thermoplastic called PHBV along with organic peroxide and another additive called trimethylolpropane triacrylate (TMPTA).

The end product was 75 percent tougher and 100 percent more flexible than PHBV on its own – meaning it is far easier to shape into food packaging…

Read the whole story here.

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