Iranian Researcher Discovers Eco-friendly Plastics

Saturday, June 15, 2019 - 16:43

Researchers of Deakin University have discovered how to turn plant waste into a biodegradable material that could replace environmentally-damaging plastics.

According to the university official website, the team from Deakin's Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM), led by Dr. Maryam Naebe, developed the bioplastic by repurposing cotton gin trash – the seeds, stems, short fibers and other waste by-products left behind from the ginning process used to separate cotton fibers.

"About 29 million tons of cotton lint is produced each year but up to a third of that ends up as cotton gin trash, where it's then sent to landfill or burned, representing a major environmental impact and lost material value," Dr. Naebe said.

"Adding value to this waste product will give cotton growers and farmers an additional income stream, while also offering a sustainable alternative to harmful synthetic plastics."

The researchers dissolve the cotton leftovers using environmentally-friendly chemicals and then re-cast the recovered bio polymer into a useable bioplastic film. The resulting material has a range of applications, such as a bale wrap, fertilizer and cotton seed packaging.

"Compared to synthetic plastics, our bioplastic is made without the need for toxic chemicals – which makes it safer and cheaper to produce at a mass scale – and it has the added bonus of contributing to the circular economy.

"The bioplastic can biodegrade and turn into soil, which will then in turn be used to grow cotton, resulting in cotton gin trash during the ginning process, which can then be repurposed again into bioplastic."

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