Feed Your Garden with Your Disposable Plastic Trash
While recycling your disposable plastic trash is always a good idea, you may soon be able to compost it with your organic waste. A team of Engineering and Research Council scientists led by Dr. Charlotte Williams recently developed new polymer-based packaging that degrades harmlessly to feed your garden.
A Low Energy, Low Water Use Process
The new plastics use a degradable polymer made of oxygen-rich sugars (known as lignocellulosic biomass) from fast-growing trees and grasses or the renewable biomass from agricultural or food waste. The leading bio-renewable plastic, polylactide, requires a high-energy process that also consumes lots of water. To recycle these plastics, the polylactide they contain must be degraded in a high-temperature industrial facility. The technical challenge was to prove that the new plastic could be manufactured in large volumes. It took Williams’ team nearly three-and-a-half years to reach a yield of 80 percent in a low energy, low water use process.
A Plastic that Degrades Safely — Even in the Human Body
Since the new polymer is made from cheap materials or waste products, it offers several advantages over current petrochemical-based plastics. Being easily degradable, it has medical uses, including tissue regeneration, stitches and drug delivery. The non-toxic polymer simply decomposes in the human body, leaving only harmless by-products. The material is being considered as artificial scaffolds for tissue regeneration, and as a method for “time-releasing” drugs in the body.
Reducing the 150 Million Tons of Plastic Produced Every Year
The new packaging solves many of today’s pressing environmental and economic problems. Currently, about seven percent of the world’s oil and gas resources are used to manufacture plastics—99 percent of these are formed from fossil fuels. In fact, the world currently produces a staggering 150 million tons of plastic annually.