The CSIR has developed a bioplastic technology for producing 100% biodegradable and compostable plastic. The technology enables single-use plastic products that, when they end up in landfills, bio-degrade within 180 days. The bioplastic products, when combined with organic waste, can turn into compost within 90 days, leaving no toxic residues.
Bioplastics are a relatively new field within the South African plastics industry. As a result, landfills overflow with plastic bags and products from the household waste removal process. The CSIR’s bioplastic is made from plant-based materials to ensure that the disposed plastic waste in landfills is transformed from the biobased polymer into organic fertiliser. The development is a significant milestone for the CSIR in working towards environmental sustainability and a green economy for South Africa.
“Our bioplastic technology is based on the use of biopolymers and agricultural waste by-products such as starch, cellulose and glycerol. Through smart use of additives, we have created unique formulations to modify the properties through a melt-processing technique. This has resulted in pellets which can be blown into films for carrier bags, kitchen waste bags, mulch films and packaging films, as well as rigid cutlery products,” says CSIR senior researcher Dr Sudhakar Muniyasamy.
The technology can help those players in the agricultural, medical and hospitality industries who are looking for green methods of packaging. In this market, approximately 90% of packaging products are typically produced from petroleum-based chemicals which are often disposed of in natural environments after single or short-term use.
“Our technology has been validated at an industrial manufacturing facility, and the pilot scale-testing for the production of the pellets and industrial-scale conversion process has been done for a specific product line,” adds Muniyasamy.
As part of the commercialisation process, the CSIR is now working towards licensing the technology.