Technical Papers Plastics
Water soluble and biodegradable plastic from milk protein, bioplastic from avocado seeds and dried shrimp shells

Water soluble and biodegradable plastic from milk protein, bioplastic from avocado seeds and dried shrimp shells

Water soluble and biodegradable thermoplastic pellets based on milk protein has been unveiled by French company Lactips, after a seven-year project by the University of Saint-Etienne to develop films and pellets made of casein, a protein derived from milk. This is a biosourced and biodegradable matter, does not leave any residues or any traces in the environment, making it an environmentally friendly product. The pellets are mainly made of milk protein, that comes from milk powder industry. The company uses non-edible casein for the non-food application and biodegradable additives.  For now, Lactips produces pellets in its lab and at a subcontractor for industrial production, a partner packaging plant manufactures its films. The company, however, is planning to build a manufacturing site in France by the end of 2018. 

Bioplastic made from avocado seeds has been developed by Mexican company Biofase. Through a patented process, the avocado seed undergoes a chemical modification with the aid of a plasticising agent; this is how it becomes a thermoplastic, and depending on the end use application, it can be mixed with other elements to generate the thermoplastic resin. The biopolymer's production process, which does not generate hazardous waste, has been patented in Mexico. The project's development counted with the participation of specialists from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and other research centres. The final product is a thermoplastic resin that degrades in less than a year and has a shelf life of close to four. It can be used to manufacture a wide range of products, from thin bags to rigid pieces, such as containers or kitchen utensils. This discovery, unique in the world, is protected by a Mexican patent and an international patent is on the way. Mexico is the world's largest avocado producer, with more than 1 million tonnes per year, of which 30,700 tons are discarded. Although the price of bioplastic is almost double compared to conventional plastics derived from petroleum, Biofase's technology could reduce the final cost by up to a quarter, according to Scott Munguía, who adds that to achieve this they are working on the improvement of the processes. "We are achieving everything we always wanted in terms of technology, which was to have a resin with the quality we expected and able to completely replace polypropylene, polystyrene and polyethylene, aiming also for it to have an affordable price, because in the industry, the issue of prices in bioplastics is a very large barrier," explains the young entrepreneur.

A group of Egyptian researchers is developing a bioplastic made with dried shrimp shells. Just six months into a two-year project, the team is already seeing some success. Scientists at Nile University clean and chemically treat shrimp shells, then ground them up and dissolve them in a solution that dries to form plastic. The researchers have utilized chitosan, a polymer made from the compound chitin commonly found in crustacean shells, to make their clear, thin plastic prototype. The shells are inexpensively sourced from local supermarkets, restaurants, and fishermen. The shells are then cleaned, chemically treated, ground, and dissolved into a solution that dries into thin films of plastic, a technique the team says has the potential for large-scale industrial production.
Project researcher Hani Chbib told Reuters Egypt imports some 3,500 metric tons of shrimp, and is left with 1,000 metric tons of shrimp shell waste. So the project could help alleviate waste and reduce plastic pollution. The Egyptian researchers are collaborating with a team from Britain’s University of Nottingham, where the professor overseeing the project, Irene Samy, conducted post-doctoral research and began exploring the idea of converting shells into plastic. The team envisions the biodegradable plastic might be used for packaging and plastic bags. They said their technique could potentially work for large-scale industrial production, and while so far they’ve only made small samples, are working to enhance properties like durability and thermal stability so the product could be widely used.

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