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.”
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.
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