CSIR developing 100% biodegradable plastic bags and crates

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The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is working towards developing bioplastics that will be completely biodegradable and recyclable. The team of researchers is hoping to create plastic bags and crates that can be easily and totally recycled, or disintegrate when left in the environment.The research team, led by senior materials scientist Dr Sudhakar Muniyasamy, has successfully created a 100% biodegradable and non-toxic plastic from agricultural byproducts and biopolymers. The main goal is to reduce pollution and the amount of plastic waste in the environment, but this research could lead to local job creation if the products make it to the manufacturing stage. There has been a worldwide push to develop plastics from biomaterials or renewable sources.“The impact of this work will play an important role in increasing local technical skills and will eventually lead to local job creation in manufacturing,” says Dr Muniyasamy. “It will contribute to the reduction of environmental pollution by the reduction of greenhouse gas emission during the production of bioplastic bags and better waste management after its disposal, leading to a cleaner environment,” he adds.

Conventional plastics are made from petroleum

“In South Africa, about 90% of carrier bags, agricultural films and other short-term or single-use consumer plastic items are produced from petroleum-based chemical materials and are therefore non-biodegradable when disposed [of] in natural environments,” says Dr Muniyasamy.“Most of these plastics are cheap to produce, but persist in landfills for many decades, causing environmental damage that is very expensive to clean,” he says.Plastics SA announced their goal of eliminating all plastic waste from South African landfills by 2030 - something which will be easier to achieve once the CSIR researchers take their biodegradable plastic into production. However, there are still challenges that need to be overcome.

Biodegradable plastic is a new industry

“Biodegradable plastic technology is an emerging technology and not well established compared to the annual 300 million tons-production capacity of petroleum-based plastics,” says Dr Muniyasamy. Bioplastics represent less than one percent of all plastics produced annually.“Moreover, the production cost of bioplastics is currently three to five times more expensive than petroleum plastics because of their intermediate steps for biomass processing. Currently, researchers are working on a way to simplify the bioplastic production process. As production capacity increases, these prices may decrease,” he states.The CSIR’s bioplastic has solid properties that are very similar to conventional plastics, making their crates and bags a good alternative for packaging and storage. The bags are suitable to be used as grocery bags, garbage bags and mulch films, whereas the crates are durable enough to be used as rigid packaging for fruits and vegetables.The CSIR research and development project is aligned with the South African government’s strategy to start producing more bioplastic materials from sustainable sources. The CSIR is also pushing to establish a bioplastic research and development centre in South Africa.Original source: www.csir.co.za___Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment. ___By pairing international expertise with local insights, we have secured our position as one of South Africa’s most respected providers of waste management and industrial cleaning services. We also operate in the recycling, pipe inspection, CCTV, infrastructure inspection, hydro-demolition, high-pressure water jetting and catalyst handling industries. ___Follow us Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the best tips on recycling and the latest industry news. See our Instagram and YouTube channels for more insights into environmental affairs and our work with local communities.