Japanese Company Improves Bioplastic with Nanocellulose

One of the hurdles that come with the development of new bioplastics has been the lack of mechanical strength compared to traditional plastic.

Japanese Company Improves Bioplastic with Nanocellulose
Cutlery made of cellulose nanofiber composite biodegradable plastic (PLA). (Source: Green Science Alliance Co., Ltd.)

With the news that microplastic particles are being found in some of the most environmentally pristine parts of the Earth and stories of dead marine mammals full of plastic, the public is becoming aware of the extent to which plastic pollution is a problem on both land and at sea. In the ocean, it’s estimated that there are 150 million tons of plastic garbage, and this could be leading to human health consequences. Microplastics have been identified in the bodies of 114 aquatic species, and more than half of those species are eaten by humans.

Despite our awareness of plastic pollution, both production and consumption of traditional plastics continue. To address the problem, policymakers believe we need to use less plastic. In the cases where plastic is unavoidable, however, there is bioplastic. Bioplastics, biodegradable plastic derived from biological substances rather than petroleum, are looked upon as one part of the answer to plastic pollution. These are substances that, with time, water, air, and microorganisms, will decompose back into organic materials.

The Limitations of Bioplastics
While bioplastics today are becoming a more common sight, they’re suitable for only a limited number of applications compared to traditional plastic. There’s a reason for this: almost all the properties of bioplastic are inferior to that of traditional, petroleum-based plastic, and the costs are far higher. Additionally, many bioplastics are not nearly as biodegradable as consumers believe they are, which means they’re still winding up in landfills and the ocean. If bioplastics are going to even begin to replace traditional plastics, researchers will need to innovate new materials with better functionality.

Green Science Alliance Co., Ltd. is one of the companies striving to innovate bioplastic. Located in Obana Kawanishi-city in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, the company is a subsidiary of Fuji Pigment Co., Ltd. Founded in 2007 by Dr. Ryohei Mori, it has about 100 employees.

New Green Materials Meet the Needs of Plastic

The company focuses on green energy and environmental science and synthesizes new, green materials that meet traditional needs – both consumer and industrial — with less waste and pollution. Green Science Alliance uses nano plastic, which it combines with traditional and biodegradable plastics, as well as starch-based plastic, recycled paper, wood, bamboo, and biodegradable plastic color masterbatch. (The company has even experimented with minerals such as clay, talc, and mica.) Several of the company’s materials are 100 percent biomass-derived biodegradable plastics that use no petroleum products.

Read more: Japanese Company Improves Bioplastic with Nanocellulose

Image courtesy of designnews.com

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