Plastic Fantastic – the future of biodegradable plastic

Improper disposal of plastic is likely to be an issue that persists for some time, but imagine a world in which it doesn’t have to linger, but can biodegrade harmlessly. That world could arrive sooner than you think.

That’s because Polymateria has created what it calls the world’s first plastic to possess a quality called time controlled open-air biodegradability. Today, on World Recycling Day, we’re all encouraged to see what we can do to ensure that all reusable materials and waste can be put back to good use, but understandably, not all of us are on the same page.

A form of plastic which degrades harmlessly after exposure to the air is a game-changer, suggesting we can live in a world that isn’t littered with plastic pollution for generations to come.

Super-plastic provides a solution

Polymateria’s new super-plastic is not only able to break down naturally, but can also be recycled if disposed of properly. Based at Imperial College London, the company has developed a thin, flexible form of plastic which can completely disintegrate in just 226 days. By contrast, conventional cling film can take decades to disappear, and even then, it simply breaks into microplastic particles, which can continue to do damage to the environment.

…we are bringing peer-reviewed science to life, so that people can see what is possible and make their voices heard in demanding better innovation, meaning change and an end to the fugitive plastic crisis.

– Niall Dunne, CEO of Polymateria

The ability to not only reduce that time window from decades to a matter of months, and ensure plastic dissipates entirely at the end of the process is a significant breakthrough, when you consider the scale of our plastic problem.

It is estimated that 32 per cent of all plastic packaging consumed worldwide doesn’t get recycled as it should. As a result, 80 per cent of the plastic we find in the world’s oceans emanates from poorly discarded plastic waste from back on land.

Polymateria ushers in biotransformation

The process that the new super-plastic undergoes as it biodegrades has been termed ‘biotransformation’, and is considered so cutting edge that Extreme E, which is running the world’s first off-road electric only racing series, has formed a partnership with Polymateria, as this year’s inaugural racing season gets underway.

The intention is for Polymateria to provide this super-plastic for food packaging, plastic cups and even biodegradable facemasks to be used on-site at each of the Global X Prix venues. All of the materials will then be collected properly, recycled and used for secondary purposes, allowing Extreme E to move from event to event, maintaining a closed loop when it comes to plastic material.

Niall Dunne, CEO of Polymateria, spoke of the partnership, saying: “Together with Extreme E, we are bringing peer-reviewed science to life, so that people can see what is possible and make their voices heard in demanding better innovation, meaning change and an end to the fugitive plastic crisis.”

Alejandro Agag, CEO of Extreme E, added: “The science-based approach [Polymateria] takes provides a unique opportunity to visualise their technology in action at key race sites, illustrating both the global problem but a credible solution in action.”

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