Don’t Dump Last Night’s Leftover. We Can Make Plastic

Biodegradability of food products is a major concern for environmentalists, researchers, and scientists. Food waste poses a severe threat to the environment, and can often be a reason for ecological imbalances. This is because a number of food products contain artificial ingredients and flavoring agents. These artificial agents are non-biodegradable, and can add to environmental pollution. Despite these negative impacts of untreated food waste, businesses and policy makers have done little to address the problem.

Engineers at the University of Canterbury (UC) realized this anomaly, and worked on a solution to optimize food waste. The engineers generated a home-grown solution that could help in converting food waste to bioplastics. Food waste is processed and converted into chemical components that can in turn be converted to bioplastics. The engineers have demonstrated their ability to think along the lines of environmental sustainability. The efforts of the research team at UC are being lauded by organizations around the world.

Feasibility of Conversion Technique

Dr. Alex Yip from the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering at UC led the research. Furthermore, Hong Kong Polytechnic University has also collaborated with UC in taking the research forward. These entities developing a catalyst that can accelerate the process of food waste conversion. Further, the research team has tested the feasibility of developing such a catalyst. The researchers further aim to extract the main chemical components from the stream of wasted food. Two of these components are 5-HMF and polylactic acid. These components can help in manufacturing utilitarian forms of bioplastics.

Future Research

While engineers are yet to measure the success rate of the product, they are still optimistic. The research could open doors for developing methods to convert food waste into usable products. Further, this research also hints at new opportunities to explore across the food industry.