Australian researchers discover seaweed solution as PFAS alternative for fast-food packaging
Flinders University materials researchers in Australia and One-Five, a German biomaterials developer, are using seaweed extracts to develop biopolymer coating materials to replace current foodservice packaging. The biomaterials are designed to replace conventional fossil-based plastic coatings used in grease-resistant quick service restaurant (QRS) packaging. The researchers state their discoveries could solve packaging waste dilemmas for the fast-food industry. Grease-resistant paper is typically coated with plastic and other environmentally harmful chemicals, such as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Biodegradation of plastics accurately tracked in soil
Modern agriculture uses vast amounts of plastic, especially in the form of mulch film that farmers use to cover field soils. This keeps the soils moist for crops, suppresses weeds, and promotes crop growth. However, it is usually very time-consuming and costly for farmers to collect and dispose of conventional polyethylene (PE) film after use. In addition, it isn’t possible to re-collect all of the thin PE films, as they tear easily. This means PE-pieces remain on and in the soil and accumulate there, because PE doesn’t degrade. Biodegradable mulch film is a promising alternative, because – in contrast to PE film – it ideally does not leave behind any polymer components in the soil environment. Until now based on existing methods, it hasn’t been possible to follow the process of polymer biodegradation in its entirety. But over the past few years, the Environmental Chemistry Group at ETH Zurich has developed a new approach to track and measure whether and to what degree a polymer biodegrades in a soil. Their findings have just been published in Nature Communications.
The European plastics industry makes steady progress towards circularity and carbon neutrality are flourishing
Plastics Europe announces an increase of 20% in the use of recycled plastics in new products in 2021 compared to 2020, according to its “Plastics – The Facts 2022” annual report. Consequently, the rate of recycled content in plastics products has reached almost 10%. This step ahead demonstrates the plastics industry’s efforts to accelerate its circularity path. Despite current progress, the report shows the need to hasten systemic change towards circularity and net zero carbon emissions. According to the report, in 2021, non-fossil-based plastics production represented 12.4% of the total European plastics production.