Plastic pollution has reached incredible levels in a space of just a decade or so. Not only that people’s careless waste disposal behaviour has led to the formation of the huge Pacific Garbage Patch, but also the actual process of plastic production adds additional chemical pollutants to the ecosystems. Italian scientists, however, think that bioplastics made of parsley stems and rice hulls can be the game-changer.
Despite of all efforts that various green-cautious organizations and governments put in order to raise awareness and minimize the (ab)use of plastics in people’s day-to-day activities, there are still some among us, who keep buying products made of the deadly material. What is even more shocking is that many of them do not even take a second to think before sending the unneeded item directly to the landfills instead of reusing or recycling it.
Unfortunately, when the mentality of large part of the population cannot be changed, scientists have to find another way to protect the environment. This is why for quite a few years now, great amount of research has been directed towards finding means to produce new eco-friendlier plastics made of bio materials that are affordable and do not interfere with food resources.
There have been quite a few successful stories, although nothing is quite like the solution that a team from the Italian Institute of Technology came across. Ilker Bayer, the lead author of the study that appeared a week ago in the journal Macromolecules, and his team, created a new type of bioplastics made from agricultural waste products like cocoa pod husks, rice hulls, or parsley and spinach stems.
To make the material, the scientists extracted the cellulose out of the bio-ingredients by placing them in trifluoroacetic acid (TFA). This resulted in the production of a stretchy, soft and rigid product, which can be used directly instead of the standard plastics made from petrochemicals.
The team states that the method is very fast and much cheaper than any other known technique for making bio-plastics. They also believe that their material can solve two problems at once: eliminate plastic pollution and recycle agricultural waste.
Image (c) AP