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Bioplastics from waste materials possible

29 May, 2008

Source: University of Waikato

Bioplastic made from blood instead of petroleum could be used on farms for seed trays or mulching films, Dr Johan Verbeek from Waikato University says.

Blood collected from abattoirs is rich in the protein needed to make bioplastic, and is cheaper and better for the environment than petroleum, Dr Verbeek adds.

“We specifically looked at blood meal because there’s a very high protein content in it, but there are a number of proteins you can do this with, including feathers,” he explains.

It was highly gratifying to use low value sustainable waste to create a high value product that breaks down without polluting the environment, Dr Verbeek said.

“Proteins are polymers so we know they can be turned into plastics. The material we can produce has the strength of polyethylene – the plastic used in milk bottles and plastic supermarket bags – but it’s fully biodegradable.”

Masters student Lisa van den Berg helped Dr Verbeek develop a new engineering process over two years to turn the animal protein waste into biodegradable plastic using plastic extrusion and injection moulding machinery. Now design students are creating a plan to build a commercial scale plant and assessing the potential of producing bioplastics.

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