According tomedia, the fake stem part of the banana is usually discarded during harvest, but it will soon be found in biodegradable and fully recyclable plastics. According to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, banana cultivation is a particularly wasteful form of agriculture, using only 12 per cent of plants. Fake stems make up most of the rest, and although they can be composted or used in textile production, they are usually discarded.
To add new value to the waste, the UNSW team, led by Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot and Professor Martina Stenzel, has developed an experimental new recycling process.
They first cut the fake stems into small pieces, then dried them in a low-temperature oven, then ground them into fine powder. The powder is then washed with a soft chemical treatment. This procedure separates the rest of the powder from a material called nanocellulose, which consists of tiny cellulose fibers. Plastics are made of this nanocellulose.
The consistency of the finished product is the same as that used in baking, and can be potentially used in products such as shopping bags and food packaging. It can be fully recycled up to three times without any loss of quality, and can be biodegradable when it is discarded. In addition, laboratory tests have shown that the material does not immerse any harmful compounds in food.
Scientists are now looking for industry partners to extend the process to commercial production levels and make it as cost-effective as possible.