A team of researchers led by Taka-Aki Asoh, an assistant professor at Osaka University’s Graduate School of Engineering, and Hiroshi Uyama, have teamed up with Japan Shoito saloon co., Ltd. to develop a biodegradable plastic for marine life that combines the ubiquitous biomass starch and cellulose.
It is understood that the main reason for the accumulation of marine waste is to dump plastic waste into the ocean, while most plastics remain in the environment will not degrade. Japan has developed marine biodegradable plastics, and phBH (developed by Kaneka) and PBS (developed by Mitsubishi Chemical) are currently available.
But they all belong to fat polyester, which is of poor quality compared to conventional plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene, produced only at low yields (about tens of thousands of tons per year, with a global annual production of 300 million tons of conventional plastics), and costs more than twice as much as conventional plastics, which limit its use. As a result, there is a strong demand for the development of low-cost, high-volume marine biodegradable plastics to address the growing problem of marine debris.
It is reported that the newly developed marine biodegradable plastics are mainly composed of starch and cellulose. Starch is the main component of carbohydrate in roots such as corn, tubers and potatoes. Cellulose is the main component of plants and is often referred to as cotton fiber. Using their unique technology, the researchers significantly improved the water resistance of starch, resulting in composite sheets showing high strength, excellent water resistance, and high biodegradability in seawater.
Associate Professor Aso said: “Because these materials are cheap and the manufacturing process is simple, the materials we develop will soon be put into use.” We very much expect our materials to help address the growing global problem of marine debris accumulation and have a significant impact on society. “
Professor Uyama added: “Our technology can make efficient use of low-cost biomass, which will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. This technology is one of the key environmental technologies proposed by Japan to ratify the Paris Agreement. “
The product is expected not only to significantly reduce the amount of new waste deposited in the oceans, but also to contribute to a more efficient and sustainable process of material circulation and to reduce greenhouse gases, contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.