Turning food waste into bioplastics
We face many ecological challenges and one of them is the food crisis. Approximately one-third of the food produced each year is wasted. This happens for several reasons like “food beauty standards,” or poor food management in the distribution chains and our homes. Fortunately, some scientists have been researching converting food waste into bioplastics with promising results.
Several initiatives around the world want to tackle issues of food crisis and plastic pollution at the same time. A conjoint solution will have the benefits of lowering greenhouse gas emissions generated by the decomposition of the food waste in the landfills, while at the same time reducing the amount of non-biodegradable plastics being produced, consumed and finally sent into landfills.
The University of Canterbury in New Zealand is working on new ways of converting food waste into elements that could be consequently turned to bioplastics. They are designing and developing a catalyst for the conversion of food waste. The project is in the stage of proof-of-concept, and the researchers are now confident that their idea is feasible.
The target is to produce a high-quality and high-value final material that would be 100% recyclable or fully biodegradable, and that would be used in the production of a new generation of packaging materials.
Other exciting initiatives are projects from Mexico, where industrial food waste is turned into bioplastics. Companies are now converting waste from the production of tequila, avocados, corn, cacti, or shrimp shells to create bioplastics and turn them into products such as bags, plates, and even car parts.
Scott Munguia from BIOFASE declares that as the world is changing, more eco-friendly products are in high demand, and consumers expect companies to improve. His company uses discarded avocado pits to produce bioplastic straws and cutlery.
Henry Ford already experimented with materials such as soybean in car parts production and now Ford Motor Co. in collaboration with the tequila industry in Mexico are using waste agave fiber to produce bio-based plastic automotive parts in order to make cars lighter and improve fuel economy.
The good news is, there are many more projects around the world that are using waste food in bioplastic production and helping to solve two critical issues at once.