Scientists Find Viable Replacement for Petroleum-Based Plastic

Plastic Food containers © Yale University

Scientists Say They Have Found a Viable Replacement for Petroleum-Based Plastic

Scientists at Ohio State University say they have developed a viable alternative to petroleum-based plastic food packaging by using natural tree-based rubber. According to the researchers, the new biodegradable material holds promise for fighting the world’s growing plastic pollution problem, as well as for helping curb our reliance on fossil fuels.

Finding a replacement for petroleum-based plastic food packaging has been a major challenge to date, with nearly all the solutions proposed either too expensive or too brittle to stand up to the demands of shipping, handling, and the stress of microwaving and freezing.

Image © Ohio State University
Trimethylol propane triacrylate (TMPTA) coagent reacts with polymer radicals [36,37].

The new material developed by Ohio State scientists, detailed in a new study in the journal Polymers, involves melting natural rubber into a plant-based biodegradable plastic called PHBV, and then adding an organic peroxide and an additive called trimethylolpropane triacrylate (TMPTA). The scientists’ end product was 75 percent tougher and 100 percent more flexible than PHBV on its own.

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© Christian Detisch/Yale Environment 360