When you see a large cardboard box, like the ones used for shipping of bulky items, you would assume that it is recyclable and biodegradable just like any conventional paper-based product. Unfortunately, you would be wrong, and the reason for this is that these boxes are made to be waterproof, therefore coated with various types of wax derived from petroleum products.
Actually, when we pay the price of having our new large purchase delivered at the doorstep, we most probably do not realize that actually we become one of these people, who contribute to sending long-lasting non-biodegradable products to landfill sites.
Thankfully, researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) might just have found the solution to this problem. They developed a new waterproof coating made of lignin, a completely natural water repellent. The polymer can be easily extracted from bagasse, a byproduct of the sugar production process also known as husk. The coating acts just as any other petroleum-based alternative, but it is entirely eco-friendly, recyclable and sustainable.
What makes it all even better is that the new coating is not just a proof-of-concept that has a potential to hit the market, or yet another article in a peer-reviewed journal, which might or might not be cited. On the contrary, it is already being tested on fruit boxes, and discussions are already being held with various international companies to commercialize the product in the coming year.
The authors are super excited about their new development, and rightfully so. They are convinced that it will not be long before we all start using the material and not even know it. Good luck to them, I am sure they are not going to be wrong in this prediction.
Image (c) QUT