A PET-type plastic has been made from biomass waste from scientists from Switzerland, and they think that it could potentially even be used for food-packaging.
The new plastic is a recyclable plastic and can be easily produced using the non-edible parts of plants. So, how did they make it? Using a technique based on a discovery in 2016, the researchers ‘cook’ the wood or other non-edible plant material with the inexpensive chemicals to produce the new material.
The studies first author, Lorenz Manker, explains the process in more detail:
“By using a different aldehyde – glyoxylic acid instead of formaldehyde – we could simply clip ‘sticky’ groups onto both sides of the sugar molecules, which then allows them to act as plastic building blocks. By using this simple technique, we are able to convert up to 25% of the weight of agricultural waste, or 95% of purified sugar, into plastic.”
Excitingly, the researchers think that the plastic could have a wide variation of uses, ranging from food packaging to electronics. This could massively impact the amount of plastic waste that is produced, seeing as the new material is biodegradable.
In 2021, we also saw other plastic alternatives such as ‘vegan spider silk’ being produced. This material was created by researchers from Cambridge University and could have the potential to replace many single-use plastics.