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Last Updated:[23-02-2010 00:51:13 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

New Nature-friendly Plastics to Revolutionize Global Industry

tradenews A versatile bio-degradable plastic being developed by a group of scientists at the Imperial College London is all set to transform the packaging industry as well as the healthcare. According to the research team, the economically and commercially viable plastic would be available in the markets within two to five years.

Dr Charlotte Williams, head of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) said the search for greener plastics, especially for single use items such as food packaging, was the subject of significant research worldwide. The EPSRC says about seven percent of fossil fuels are used to manufacture plastics; with global production pegged at more than 150mn tons annually, almost 99 percent of plastics are made out of them.

The latest invention will seize the place of hitherto indispensable polluting plastics with its disposability and application quotient. The sugar-based polymer known as lignocellulosic biomass could be composted at home along with organic waste.

It is expected to be used in a variety of medical applications such as tissue regeneration, stitches and drug delivery as the polymer is supposed to have non-toxic properties which decompose in the body creating harmless by-products. The EPSRC is jointly making efforts with its commercial partner BioCeramic Therapeutics to make this a reality.

Currently, the largely used bio-degradable plastic, polylactide production requires high energy and large quantity of water and degraded in a high-temperature industrial facility. While the new polymer is produced through non-food crops including fast-growing trees and grasses, or renewable biomass from agricultural or food waste and has natural molecules to get absorbed with other organic waste.

As the production of the new packaging plastic would not cause any harm to the food crop resources, it is regarded as a relief from polluting petro-chemical ones. “Our key breakthrough was in finding a way of using a non-food crop to form a polymer, as there are ethical issues around using food sources in this way,” said Williams.

By Jose Roy

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