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The quest to keep plastic out of landfills and simultaneously satisfy the needs of the food industry is filled with obstacles.
A biodegradable replacement for petroleum-based products has to meet all sorts of standards and, so far, attempts at viable replacements from renewable sources have faced limited success due to processing and economic constraints. Among the obstacles, products to date have been too brittle for food packaging.
Research - Ohio - State - University - Rubber
But new research from The Ohio State University has shown that combining natural rubber with bioplastic in a novel way results in a much stronger replacement for plastic, one that is already capturing the interest of companies looking to shrink their environmental footprints.
Almost all plastics—about 90 percent—are petroleum-based and are not biodegradable, a major environmental concern.
Study - Journal - Polymers - Research - Team
In a new study published in the journal Polymers, the research team reports success with a rubber-toughened product derived from microbial fermentation that they say could perform like conventional plastic. This new study highlights the greatest success in this area so far, according to the scientists.
"Previous attempts at this combination were unsuccessful because the softness of the rubber meant the product lost a lot of strength in the process," said lead author Xiaoying Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher in Ohio State's Department of Food Science and Technology.
Study - Rubber - Thermoplastic - PHBV - Peroxide
The new study involved melting rubber into a plant-based thermoplastic called PHBV along with organic peroxide and another additive called trimethylolpropane triacrylate (TMPTA).
The end product was 75 percent tougher and 100 percent more flexible than PHBV on its own—meaning it is far easier to shape into food packaging.
Research - Teams - Rubber - PHBV - Products
Other research teams have combined rubber and PHBV, but the products have been too weak to withstand all the demands of a food package—from processing, to shipping, to handling in stores and homes, especially containers that are used for freezing and then microwaving, said the study's senior author,...
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