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Degradable bioplastics made from banana crops

Jan. 06, 2020

A biodegradable "plastic" bag made from bananas sounds a bit ... but two researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney came up with a novel way to turn waste from banana plantations into Biodegradable plastics and recyclable packaging materials.

The industry produces a lot of organic waste. In fact, the valuable harvest only accounts for 12% of the total product quality, and the rest are discarded.

Jayashree Arcot, an associate professor at the School of Chemical Engineering, New South Wales, said: "Compared with other fruit crops, the reason why banana cultivation is particularly wasteful is that the crop dies after each harvest. We are particularly interested in banana pseudostems (plant (Perverted stems); they are basically layered, fleshy and dried after each harvest and discarded in the plantation. Some of them are used as textile raw materials and some are used as compost, but otherwise It's a huge waste. "

Arcot and professor Martina Stenzel wanted to know if fake stems could serve as a source of cellulose for the production of packaging materials, paper products, textiles and even medical supplies (such as materials for healing wounds and delivering drugs).

They obtained fake banana stems from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and set out to extract cellulose to test its suitability.

Arcot said, "90% of the fake stems are water, leaving about 10% solids. We cut them into pieces, dried them at a very low temperature in a drying box, and ground them into very fine powder. This powder is chemically treated and cleaned. Nanocellulose is isolated, a high-value material with a wide range of applications. Biodegradable packaging bag is one of our most interesting applications, especially disposable food packaging. "

Based on the expected thickness, "we can use them to make shopping bags." She said, "Or adjust the process to get different finished thicknesses for making trays for meat and fruit. Of course, it's completely non-toxic, Biodegradable materials and recyclable. "

They confirmed in tests that the cellulose material “films” would be decomposed organically after 6 months in the soil.

"This material is also recyclable. One of our doctoral students demonstrated that it can be recycled three times and reused without changing its characteristics."

Food tests show that they are harmless.

Biodegradable Packaging Bag

Biodegradable Packaging Bag

Professor Stenzel said: "I have also tested on mammalian cells, cancer cells, and T cells, and all have no toxicity."

"Theoretically, every plant can be used to make nanocellulose, but some plants are better than others because of their higher cellulose content," said Professor Stenzel.

"Apart from the cellulose content, the appeal of bananas is that they are annual plants," Arcot added.

Researchers say that banana fake stems have become a realistic alternative to plastic bags and food packaging. For the banana industry, it is undoubtedly profitable to process fake stems into powder and then sell them.

At the other end of the supply chain, if bags and other packaging materials made of nanocellulose films are popularized, such as biodegradable vegetable bag, there will be a great opportunity to make food packaging more sustainable.

Professor Stenzel said: "What we really want at this stage is an industry partner who can work with them to increase production scale and reduce costs."

Associate Professor Arcot added: "If the packaging company finds this material to be more affordable, they will be happy to try."

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