Biodegradation & Compostation R&D and Innovations

Irish Find a Way To Compost PLA at Home

Ireland-based researchers develop a new PLA bioplastic that can biodegrade under home-composting conditions.

Scientists from BEACON (Bio-economy Research Centre) and AMBER (Materials Science Research) have developed a new biodegradable plastic based on PLA.

The researchers found that by adding polycaprolactone (PCL) to polylactic acid (PLA), which normally requires high temperatures to disintegrate, the material completely broke down in an environment mirroring a home composter. The new plastic is as strong as PLA. PLA is a biobased plastic and PCL is a biodegradable polyester.

The researchers studied 15 different biodegradable plastics and mixtures of these plastics to see which had the most potential to biodegrade across a range of different environments. Only two of the 15 biodegradable plastics tested, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) and thermoplastic starch (TPS), broke down completely under standard soil and water conditions.

The team was led by BEACON Professor Kevin O’Connor and AMBER scientist Dr Ramesh Babu. The research was published  in the journal Environmental Science & Technology,

Professor O’Connor said:

“Imagine putting your waste plastic packaging into a household composting bin that breaks down the plastic and produces compost for your garden or into your brown bin so waste collection companies are able to mix plastic with unavoidable food waste and produce biogas to run their fleet or power your home.”

 

biodegradable PLA
Prof Kevin O’Connor

Kevin O’Connor is Professor at the School Of Biomolecular & Biomedical Science in UCD. He is the founder and CEO of BIOPLASTECH, a UCD spin out company converting waste to biodegradable polymer.

CLOSING REMARKS

  • It was about time that the Irish woke up from their winter sleep and Kevin O’Connor gave a place to Ireland at the bioplastics table.
  • Their invention has been tested in a lab … in an environment mirroring a home composter … now they have to get out of the lab and test it in the real world.
  • Will it remain a research paper or will they commercialise it? This is the real question!

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