Researchers from universities in Thailand and Malaysia have collaborated to develop a unique bioplastic sheet that is environmentally friendly and biodegradable. This innovative material is created using a byproduct of the bromelain industry, utilizing pineapple stems from agricultural waste. By harnessing these pineapple stems, the researchers have created a bioplastic sheet that has the potential to replace harmful single-use plastic packaging, contributing to a more sustainable and circular economy.
Plastic waste, particularly small and difficult-to-recycle items like bread clips, poses a significant threat to the environment and living organisms. To address this issue, various solutions have been proposed, including the use of biodegradable polymers for single-use applications and the implementation of plastic bans in certain countries.
Biodegradable polymers encompass a range of options, such as polylactic acid (PLA), polybutylene succinate (PBS), polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT), as well as natural polymers like starch, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), and polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). However, it is important to note that each type of biodegradable polymer possesses distinct characteristics, and understanding their specific properties and limitations is crucial.
Commonly used biodegradable polymers like PLA, PBAT, and PBS require specific conditions, such as controlled humidity and temperature found in industrial composting facilities, to biodegrade effectively. Therefore, proper disposal and collection of these materials in suitable facilities are essential to ensure their complete degradation. In contrast, starch-based materials, PHAs, and PHBs can fully biodegrade in natural environments, making them suitable for applications where convenient collection and recycling pose challenges.
In this study, the researchers utilized the starch derived from pineapple stems as the primary ingredient for their bioplastic material. By adding glycerol and calcium carbonate, they were able to enhance the material’s strength and moldability. By adjusting the quantities of these ingredients, the team created samples with different properties and strengths.
The resulting bioplastic material demonstrated water resistance and absorbed less water compared to similar materials. When buried in soil, it completely decomposed into tiny pieces within a mere two weeks. The researchers even developed a test version of a bread clip using this material, which successfully held a bag closed. This study showcases the potential of using pineapple stem starch as an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based or other plant-based plastics. It represents a significant step towards sustainable production of small plastic products and the promotion of a circular economy.
Source: Newcastle University in Singapore