New research from scientists at the Imperial College of London has led to a breakthrough in plastics that could be composted right at home! Even though there are already plastics made from corn that do eventually degrade over time, this new type of material made from sugars found in fast-growing trees and grasses are said to biodegrade in normal compost. This is a giant breakthrough and could lead to significant decreases in petroleum use as well as reducing plastic waste in landfills!
Scientists at the Imperial College of London are creating plastics by extracting a polymer from glucose found in trees and grasses. Since trees and grasses are not needed for food production, using them will hopefully be less controversial than using corn. The new sugar-based plastics can also biodegrade faster than corn and much, much more rapidly than the hundreds of years it takes petroleum based plastics to break down. Researchers think that the sugar based plastic can decompose in normal home compost in a matter of months.
Work on this project has taken around 3.5 years to yield successful results and has made significant strides in reducing water use during the manufacturing process. Current production methods for biorenewable plastic, aka polylactide, occurs with a high energy process requiring large volumes of water, and must be degraded with high-temperature. The new plastic requires about 80% less energy and water, and can be composted in normal conditions.
Image ©Bridgette Meinhold
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