Bioplastics made from PHA are more sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics for making single-use food packaging as PHA can be fermented from microorganisms without using petrochemicals. Also, PHA is biodegradable and waste PHA can be fed back to bacteria to recycle it
FREMONT, CA: Spanish researchers from Jaume I University and the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology collaborated with Ocenic Resins, to develop straws made from a plastic called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), produced by bacteria like Bacillus megaterium when they are stressed. Bioplastics made from PHA are more sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics for making single-use food packaging as PHA can be fermented from microorganisms without using petrochemicals. Also, PHA is biodegradable, and waste PHA can be fed back to bacteria to recycle it. This could be the optimal solution to reduce plastic pollution of marine ecosystems.
Ocenic Resins are manufacturing these new drinking straws with the aim of commercializing them. “There are several supermarkets interested,” a representative from Ocenic Resins said. “We calculate that the straws will be commercially available in approximately two months.” By themselves, PHA polymers generally have poor thermal stability and require additives like starch to make them usable. In order to overcome this challenge, PHA is taken from external suppliers and mixed with undisclosed additives that help the drinking straws to sustain higher temperatures better than paper straws.
This new collaboration is part of a thriving moment for companies developing bioplastic products. Recently, the Dutch company Avantium opened a demonstration plant to produce bioplastics for use in drinks bottles and textiles. Recently, French biotech company Carbios raised money to open its own demonstration plant producing 100% recycled plastic bottles. At the same time, Scottish company CuanTec is developing a fermentation method for producing bioplastics from the discarded shells of seafood.
Despite bioplastics like PHA being more expensive than conventional plastics, European markets such as food packaging and hygiene products sector may be increasingly welcome of them. This is because the EU recently took steps to ban the use of certain single-use plastics entirely by 2021. However, a certain amount of caution is advised as the definition of single-use plastics in the legislation is ambiguous, which could leave many wary of adopting items made from PHA plastics.
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