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Biopolymer specialist works with NIAB to tackle plastic pollution

Biopolymer specialist works with NIAB to tackle plastic pollution 700 336 Agronomist Arable Farmer

Biopolymer innovator Teysha Technologies has joined NIAB to research, test and develop bioplastics for the agricultural industry in the UK. The opportunity will allow Teysha to expand as the start up further commercialises in the UK, utilising the Eastern Agritech Innovation Hub near Cambridge. The Hub will be the focal point for developing and testing new sustainable materials and bioplastics to tackle growing plastic pollution as well as investigating waste feedstock options within British agricultural operations.

The first innovation to be delivered from the new Teysha laboratory will be a series of new polyester composite materials. Their purpose will be to replace some products that are currently based on petrochemical plastics, as well as improve the biodegradability of existing bioplastics such as polylactic acid. Unlike other polymer manufacturing processes, the synthesis of Teysha’s materials generates zero chemical by-products for disposal. Its properties make it susceptible to microbial breakdown, a desirable benefit for applications like packaging.

Teysha’s new polyester composites show promise as plastic alternatives across industries like agriculture and horticulture. For example, British gardeners go through 500 million plastic plant pots a year that are either incinerated or sent to landfills. On average they take an estimated 450 years to degrade and in the process may release toxic additives, dyes and microplastics into the environment. To address this, Teysha is targeting the development of alternatives using polyester composites. The goal is to prototype alternative options that provide additional plant nourishment while also having the ability to either biodegrade or be composted.

“This opportunity to work with the NIAB will allow us to further develop innovative, sustainable materials that can replace harmful plastics in industries like agriculture, as well as examine waste feedstocks for our range of biopolymers.” Said Matthew Stone, Managing Director of Teysha Technologies. “Working with such an important UK institution will also accelerate commercialisation in the UK.”

Teysha Technologies was established to solve the problems surrounding the production and use of plastics. In partnership with Texas A&M University, Teysha have developed novel second generation bioplastics based on sugar polycarbonates. Now, Teysha is extending its commercial operations to the UK where it is establishing a laboratory facility and a relationship with the NIAB.

The NIAB Group is the UK’s fastest-growing crop science organisation, addressing the challenges of food security, climate change and sustainable development in agriculture. The group works with local and national businesses at the hub to carry out commercial scale pilot studies that aid the development of the agricultural and horticultural industries in the UK.

To find out more about Teysha Technologies and its research into tuneable biodegradable biopolymers, visit the Teysha Technologies website.

The science of solving plastic pollution

The science of solving plastic pollution 1486 814 Packaging News

Fund biopolymer research, not fracking to end climate change

Fund biopolymer research, not fracking to end climate change 720 412 Energy Live News

The report by the changemakers helps to highlight the dangers of global warming and calls for leading businesses to take responsibility for contributing to the climate crisis.

Matthew Stone, Managing Director at Teysha Technologies, a biopolycarbonate research platform, shares how investing in biodegradable polymer substitutes could lead to the end of single-use plastics for good.

According to National Geographic, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which spans from the west coast of North America to Japan, contains 1.8 trillion plastic pieces. While oil and gas goliaths such as Sinopec and ExxonMobil are thought to produce more than 5% of the worlds single-use plastics. Banking giants HSBC and Barclays Bank are now being held accountable for lending over $3 billion each to producers of virgin polymer.

These companies must take responsibility for their colossal plastic waste footprints and start to invest in cheaper, more durable, and genuinely sustainable, greener alternatives. The question is, how can this be achieved?

Looking for Liquid Gold

Matthew Stone of Teysha Technologies says: “It is evident that plastic production damages our environment, so why do we continue to produce it? The simple answer is that it is low-cost, durable, and malleable, making it a suitable material for use in industrial and consumer products.

Sadly, all these alleged positives equal a negative, and that’s the fact that it doesn’t degrade naturally. Plastic can take an unbelievable timeframe to degrade of its own accord, certainly not in our lifetimes without the help of greenhouse gas-producing industrial catalysts and releasing harmful chemical pollutants.”

Every stage of the plastic lifecycle contributes considerably to global warming and the climate crisis. For example, fracking leaks thousands of tonnes of harmful gases into the atmosphere every day. According to National Geographic, 540,000 tonnes of methane is produced in the North Texas Barnett Shale region alone every year. This is the equivalent of 46 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the environment.

Matthew Stone says: “At present, the fracked oil to make plastic is only at 14%; this is expected to continue to rise over the coming decades due to our reliance on the material. To make a difference, companies must focus on less destructive materials such as biodegradable and sustainable polymers, which can serve the same purpose but are far less damaging to the environment than traditional plastic.”

Fund Research, Not Fracking

Image: Pexels

Investing funds into research to help drive change is the answer to zero-waste plastic and a greener, safer future for us all. If the global banks invested even half of their funding into green initiatives, we would be further along in the fight against global warming. Thankfully, companies like Teysha Technologies are making landmark breakthroughs in viable plastic substitutes. Thanks to funding and research into developing biodegradable biopolymers, the research is delivering excellent results.

Teysha Technologies developed a platform where modified natural monomers, co-monomers and additives can combine to produce versatile, tunable materials comparable to traditional plastic. The platform uses various natural components, so the strength, thermal stability and degradation rates can all be controlled according to the application.

Many petrochemical-derived polycarbonates reach versatility through molar mass control, crystallinity and blending with other potentially toxic petrochemicals. The residual materials can remain in the environment for over 450 years, which can cause irreparable damage to organisms and their ecosystems. Diverting the funding from virgin plastic production and instead toward biodegradable biopolymer production, it could be possible to reverse the damage caused by climate change.

The companies named in the Plastic Waste Makers Index Report should lead the charge on these changes. If each one of them were to stop their drilling and redirect that destructive energy into the search for sustainable plastics, the world could one day become the healthier, greener carbon-neutral place we know it could be.

Teysha Technologies have created a patented, renewable, fully biodegradable plastic substitute, using waste from landfills to create polymers for hundreds of different applications.

About Teysha Technologies and Matthew Stone

As Managing Director, Matthew Stone works with a team of specialists at Teysha Technologies, who after more than a decade of research, have managed to create and develop Teysha’s unique solutions to plastic pollution.

The platform developed by Teysha and its team of globally renowned research scientists and the best commercialisation specialists in the UK, creates a range of polymers that fulfil the criteria of sustainability. Sectors such as packaging, medical equipment and construction can benefit from Teysha’s innovative technology, which produces environmentally friendly plastics as a viable, practical alternative to polycarbonates.

Partnership set to tackle microplastics in additives

Partnership set to tackle microplastics in additives 900 469 Process and Control Today
Biopolymer specialist to begin work with major manufacturer to develop sustainable alternative to microplastic additives for waxes, coatings, cosmetics and more ~

Biopolymer specialist Teysha Technologies has partnered with a major North American multinational additives manufacturer to begin joint testing and optimisation on a range of Teysha’s materials with a focus on developing alternatives to petroleum-based microplastics. The agreement will see the company begin application testing of Teysha Technologies’ second generation natural environmentally friendly biopolymers “AggiePol” and newly developed polymer lines.

Although some details of the agreement must remain undisclosed for commercial reasons, Teysha Technologies will work with the North American additives manufacturer on the potential to replace microplastics in a wide variety of real-world applications such as dyes, paints, inks, exfoliants, emulsions, waxes, lubricants, coatings and glosses among others. This will also tie in with Teysha’s continuing work with global cosmetics customers to develop sustainable replacements for microplastics in their product lines.

The company has been focused on expanding its technology platform, offering a range of polymers with multiple applications and solutions to industry depending on end-use requirements for specific product lines.

“We’ve known since 2018 that 13m tonnes of plastic reach our oceans each year and more recently that microplastics ingested by marine life are already entering the commercial food supply,” said Matthew Stone, Managing Director of Teysha Technologies. “This partnership represents our continued commitment to focus on developing earth-friendly and natural alternatives to eliminate microplastics from our waterways.”

Earlier this month, the European Union and other countries called for negotiations towards a legally-binding agreement to reduce plastic pollution, including the microplastics infesting oceans and waterways. Ministers attending a conference in Geneva, hosted by the UN Environment programme UNEP, were presented with a draft resolution stressing the urgent need to address the global crisis. UNEP has warned that “our planet is drowning in plastic pollution,” with the world today producing some 300m tonnes of plastic waste every year.

Following years of research, development and testing, Teysha Technologies’ biopolymer offers a viable substitute for petroleum-based polycarbonates. In Teysha’s plug and play technology, the monomers and comonomers, the natural building blocks that make up conventional plastic, are derived from natural sources like starches and agricultural waste products instead of hydrocarbon-based petrochemicals.

In the last few months Teysha has made advances to its original AggiePol bioplastic platform, through the development of a series of materials that exhibit tuneable thermal properties.

“AggiePol now provides for variable solubilities, thermal transition temperatures and mechanical behaviours,” explained Professor Karen Wooley, Chief Technology Officer at Teysha Technologies. “This allows the materials to be used as additives or neat plastics in applications ranging from additives, personal care and cosmetic products to personal protective equipment, plastic packaging and engineering plastics.

“This means we can tune the biopolymer according to individual application requirements to operate and then break down under specific environmental and thermal conditions, a critical benefit compared with conventional plastics, that can persist in the environment for thousands of years.”

To find out more about how to replace microplastics with sustainable biopolymers, visit www.teyshatech.co.uk.

Could a natural material replace plastic?

Could a natural material replace plastic? 2048 1505 Industry Asia

Teysha Technologies, manufacturers of sustainable bioplastic AggiePol®, has created an infographic to show how its next generation of bioplastic can replace existing petroleum-based plastics. With CO2 emissions to grow by more than 2.75 billion tonnes by 2050, the burden that manufacturing plastics has on our environment is starting to be of concern.

The Centre for International Environmental Law estimates that only one per cent of the 359 million tonnes of plastic produced each year are biodegradable. This is despite the media’s efforts to portray the ugly truth of beaches strewn with bags and bottles, and ocean life trapped by plastic rings from an eight-pack of lager. Less considered, however, is the impact of petroleum-based plastic production on the environment.

Oil and gas industries use fossil fuels such as ethylene and propylene, which release toxic gas and do not degrade. To tackle this, fuel industries created poly(butylene succinate), a biodegradable ‘eco alternative’. However, its status as being eco-friendly is debatable because of its petrochemical precursors.

“The trouble with bioplastic is that it traditionally lacks the strength, toughness and longevity of conventional plastic” explains Dr Ashlee Jahnke. “Alternatives derived from corn or sugarcane quickly fell out of favour because they are between 20 and 50 per cent more costly to produce, and only degrade under certain conditions.”

“Often, bioplastics still need industrial composting conditions, oxygen and microorganisms to biodegrade efficiently. In an ideal world this would not be an issue, but the UK doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to process bioplastics in a cost-effective way”

Some of the world’s most renown food and beverage companies started experimenting with plant-based bottles, using bioethanol from renewable sources in place of fossil fuels, which, on the surface seemed a great idea. However, it sparked ethical concerns about diverting food, such as corn, crop to make plastic alternatives. Researchers also unearthed that the material degraded in the same way as traditional plastics and therefore not a sustainable alternative.

Low oil prices and a lack of political support globally has slowed progress in the bioplastics industry. Now more than ever, the world faces increased financial pressures because of the pandemic and attentions have been temporarily turned away from the global plastics crisis. Teysha see this as an opportunity for improvement.

AggiePol® uses natural-product based building blocks to create bio-polymers which react and behave similarly to conventional plastics. Bio-polymers often have higher chemical diversity than typical hydrocarbons, meaning their physical, mechanical and chemical properties can be finely tuned. This allows developers to manipulate degradation rates, while boasting strength, toughness and durability.

As a second-generation bioplastic, AggiePol® is capable of degradation, and can regenerate the natural-product building blocks. Not only could it replace ethylene-derived non-biodegradable plastics, but it could replace existing petroleum-based polycarbonates. Plenty of applications can benefit from this – from food packaging, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to medical-grade implantation and textiles.

What is the solution to plastic pollution?

What is the solution to plastic pollution? 1536 727 Pollution Solutions Online

“People and the planet are only as healthy as the ecosystems we depend on.” This is a statement to encourage ecosystem restoration published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). But ecosystem restoration is more than a pathway to achieving climate goals. Here Duncan Clark, head of operations at biopolymer researcher Teysha Technologies, explains how we can take steps in restoring ecosystems by terminating the use of Earth’s biggest polluter, plastic.

The WWF describes plastic pollution as one of the most visible symptoms of the environmental crisis, damaging natural habitats and threatening wildlife. In fact, the Geneva Environment Network estimates that the cumulative production of plastic surpassed eight billion metric tons worldwide in 2020 and is expected to increase in the coming decades.

The images we see in the media of litter-strewn beaches and marine life tangled up in single-use plastic bags are powerful conversation starters, but they don’t represent the entire problem. Plastic is harmful from the point of manufacture and even with more robust recycling policies, the plastic crisis will persist into the future if we can’t source a sustainable alternative.

To understand the extent of this issue, we must dig deeper into how plastic is produced.

Plastic’s ugly truths

Most plastic production requires a core ingredient: crude oil dug deep from the Earth’s crust. The seismic vibrations caused by oil extraction is enough to disrupt some habitats. But when you factor in the threat of oil spills and the infrastructure needed to transport resources in-land, thousands of species have been displaced to accommodate demand for crude oil.
It may not seem much, but five per cent of all global crude oil extracted is used for the manufacturing of plastics. This actually equates to approximately 35m barrels per year.

Plastic production is also extremely energy intensive, consuming 2000 times the amount of energy it takes to treat and distribute tap water. It also generates harmful pollutants that damage the Earth’s atmosphere and leach into our land and water systems.

The carbon emissions from producing plastic are threatening thousands of species who are struggling to adapt to rapidly changing environmental temperatures. National Public Radio (NPR) estimates that carbon emissions from plastic production could amount to 56 gigatons between now and 2050.

Finally, the products made from plastic pose an even bigger threat to our ecosystems. One single-use plastic bottle, whose contents may take minutes to consume, will persist in the environment anywhere from 450 years to several thousand years.

The result is that there are now some 80,000 tonnes of plastic — the equivalent weight of 500 jumbo jets — in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch alone, according to The Ocean Clean Up. Once broken down into microplastic particles, these are consumed by marine life, only to work their way back through the food chain and end up on our plates.

The evidence is clear that plastic is a cause for concern, but it’s convenience cannot be understated. The good news is that there is now a viable alternative that means we can feasibly outlaw traditional plastic for good.

Solving the polymer puzzle

Teysha Technologies has developed a polymer platform using sustainable feedstocks to generate Earth-friendly polycarbonate materials. This plug-and-play system incorporates natural monomers and co-monomers, rather than hydrocarbons from crude oil, formulated from starches or agricultural waste.

A major benefit of this is that the resulting material’s physical, mechanical and chemical properties can be tuned to fit specific applications. Even the polycarbonate’s degradation rates are tuneable. Food packaging, for example, is often disposed of after a single use, so it could be tuned to break down quicker in an environment with sufficient moisture.

A common problem with traditional bioplastics, despite being composed of ‘greener’ materials, is that they still need industrial catalysts and the right microbial conditions to degrade. Most countries simply don’t have the infrastructure to facilitate this.

By considering the impact of each stage in the lifecycle of plastic on ecosystems, we can start to transition from petrochemical-based plastics towards truly natural, harmless materials.

Teysha Technologies: The road to biomaterials

Teysha Technologies: The road to biomaterials 1440 540 Sustainability Magazine
Duncan Clark, head of operations at Teysha Technologies, discusses how biopolymers will reduce plastic production in the automotive industry

There are approximately 960,000 Ford Fiesta’s registered on Britain’s roads. Each of these cars requires 100 gallons or more of crude oil to manufacture the plastic in the car’s interior, bodywork, crumple zones and engine components. What’s more, this plastic will still be around long after the car has reached the end of its useful lifetime. Here Duncan Clark, head of operations at biopolymer research company Teysha Technologies, explains how automakers can overcome this problem by switching to tuneable bioplastics.

With many carmakers switching to EV production, significant gains are being made in making the automotive industry more sustainable. However, the 120 kilograms of plastic going into manufacturing every car will outlive the vehicle by about 380 years. This poses the question: is the investment in the car worth the environmental cost of producing this much plastic?

Plastics are used by carmakers because they are lightweight, versatile and durable. For example, the plastics in a Ford Fiesta will be used to improve passenger and driver comfort and enhance the safety of the vehicle. Plastic also reduces vehicle weight, improving the overall fuel economy. But this does not counteract the resource-intensive process of manufacturing plastic, and carmakers should now be investigating sustainable polymer alternatives.

Polyester in car interiors

Plastics Europe estimates that twelve to fifteen per cent of a car’s weight is plastic. Some plastic components are built to last the lifetime of the car, including the textiles, dashboard, interior trim and exterior bodywork such as the bumpers. Others are designed to be replaced, including the floor mats and windscreen wipers. Mats, for example, are composed of polyester fibres and will be replaced after a few years of wear and tear.

However, polyester production is highly polluting and uses approximately 330 million barrels of oil per year. Common Objective also predicts that 14.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide is produced per kilogram of polyester. If up to 25 kilograms of polyester is used in a Ford Fiesta’s interior, that equates to 355 kilograms of carbon dioxide produced in making one car’s textiles.

It is understandable why polyester has become a popular choice for car interiors. Seatbelts, for example, are also composed of petroleum-derived fibres and help to protect passengers from serious injury. Safety is unquestionably important, so efforts to find sustainable bioplastics, which meet safety standards, should be a priority.

Plastic bodywork

Plastic composites, like polypropylene, are used in car crumple zones because they absorb more energy on impact than metals. This means that the driver of a modern car with a plastic crumple zone is much more likely to survive a Road Traffic Accident (RTA), than an older car with metal crumple zones.

However, a recent study in Nature Communications estimates that 100,000 metric tonnes of microplastics make their way from crumple zones and vehicle exteriors into our water systems every year. This may be from general wear-and-tear, illegal scrapping and damage leftover by RTAs. To put this into perspective, this is the equivalent weight of all 960,000 British-registered Ford Fiesta’s surviving in our ecosystems for hundreds of years.

Global carmakers are now working on solutions to alleviate plastic pollution, such as manufacturing vehicles using recycled plastics. But will these efforts go far enough, or is it time to stop producing plastic altogether?

Why recycling doesn’t go far enough

Global automotive companies have been experimenting with recycled plastic in their car designs for many years now. Nissan, for example, manufactures the LEAF electric vehicle, which is made from 25 per cent recycled materials. 60 per cent of the LEAF’s interior is derived from PET plastic bottles, making it a definite step in the right direction for the automotive industry.

To further this effort, in 2020, students at the Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands, proved that manufacturing a vehicle from 100% recycled plastic and household waste is possible. Plastic bottles and broken household appliances were used to flesh out the car body, windows and interior, most of these fished out of the ocean or dug up from landfill.

Solutions like the ones employed by Nissan and the Eindhoven students are certainly commendable. But recycling infrastructure in many countries is simply inadequate and would not be able to generate the materials needed for large-scale car manufacturing. Efforts should now be focussed on improving recycling practices in tandem with halting plastic production altogether. This is achievable by switching to using durable, versatile and plastic-like biopolymers.

A biopolymer future

Biodegradable biopolymers, such as those developed by Teysha Technologies, are showing promise as plastic alternatives. This technology may eventually help steer the industry away from non-renewable, petroleum-based plastics.

The past five years have seen Teysha achieve a landmark breakthrough in its second-generation biopolymer. Made from natural feedstocks, such as starches and agricultural waste, this versatile polymer can be physically, mechanically and chemically tuned to meet the needs of the automotive industry.

Crucially, these biopolymers overcome many of the challenges of existing biopolymers, like the fact that their hydrolytic breakdown can be controlled — and unlike conventional biopolymers, they can be made to biodegrade in nature, and without the use of industrial catalysts.

All plastic elements of a car could make use of biodegradable biopolymers, from carpets to crumples zones. If every automotive manufacturer were to make this transition, the resource-intensive refining of plastics would soon become obsolete.

To find out more about Teysha Technologies, click here

The road to biomaterials

The road to biomaterials 1500 1125 Interplas Insights

There are approximately 960,000 Ford Fiesta’s registered on Britain’s roads. Each of these cars requires 100 gallons or more of crude oil to manufacture the plastic in the car’s interior, bodywork, crumple zones and engine components. What’s more, this plastic will still be around long after the car has reached the end of its useful lifetime. Here Duncan Clark, head of operations at biopolymer research company Teysha Technologies, explains how automakers can overcome this problem by switching to tuneable bioplastics.

With many carmakers switching to EV production, significant gains are being made in making the automotive industry more sustainable. However, the 120 kilograms of plastic going into manufacturing every car will outlive the vehicle by about 380 years. This poses the question: is the investment in the car worth the environmental cost of producing this much plastic?

Plastics are used by carmakers because they are lightweight, versatile and durable. For example, the plastics in a Ford Fiesta will be used to improve passenger and driver comfort and enhance the safety of the vehicle. Plastic also reduces vehicle weight, improving the overall fuel economy. But this does not counteract the resource-intensive process of manufacturing plastic, and carmakers should now be investigating sustainable polymer alternatives.

Polyester in car interiors

Plastics Europe estimates that twelve to fifteen per cent of a car’s weight is plastic. Some plastic components are built to last the lifetime of the car, including the textiles, dashboard, interior trim and exterior bodywork such as the bumpers. Others are designed to be replaced, including the floor mats and windscreen wipers. Mats, for example, are composed of polyester fibres and will be replaced after a few years of wear-and-tear.

However, polyester production is highly polluting and uses approximately 330 million barrels of oil per year. Common Objective also predicts that 14.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide is produced per kilogram of polyester. If up to 25 kilograms of polyester is used in a Ford Fiesta’s interior, that equates to 355 kilograms of carbon dioxide produced in making one car’s textiles.

It is understandable why polyester has become a popular choice for car interiors. Seatbelts, for example, are also composed of petroleum-derived fibres and help to protect passengers from serious injury. Safety is unquestionably important, so efforts to find sustainable bioplastics, which meet safety standards, should be a priority.

Plastic bodywork

Plastic composites, like polypropylene, are used in car crumple zones because they absorb more energy on impact than metals. This means that the driver of a modern car with a plastic crumple zone is much more likely to survive a Road Traffic Accident (RTA), than an older car with metal crumple zones.

However, a recent study in Nature Communications estimates that 100,000 metric tonnes of microplastics make their way from crumple zones and vehicle exteriors into our water systems every year. This may be from general wear-and-tear, illegal scrapping and damage left over by RTAs. To put this into perspective, this is the equivalent weight of all 960,000 British-registered Ford Fiesta’s surviving in our ecosystems for hundreds of years.

Global carmakers are now working on solutions to alleviate plastic pollution, such as manufacturing vehicles using recycled plastics. But will these efforts go far enough, or is it time to stop producing plastic altogether?

Why recycling doesn’t go far enough

Global automotive companies have been experimenting with recycled plastic in their car designs for many years now. Nissan, for example, manufactures the LEAF electric vehicle, which is made from 25 per cent recycled materials. 60 per cent of the LEAF’s interior is derived from PET plastic bottles, making it a definite step in the right direction for the automotive industry.

To further this effort, in 2020, students at the Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands, proved that manufacturing a vehicle from 100 per cent recycled plastic and household waste was possible. Plastic bottles and broken household appliances were used to flesh out the car body, windows and interior, most of these fished out of the ocean or dug up from landfill.

Solutions like the ones employed by Nissan and the Eindhoven students are certainly commendable. But recycling infrastructure in many countries is simply inadequate and would not be able generate the materials needed for large-scale car manufacturing. Efforts should now be focussed on improving recycling practices in tandem with halting plastic production altogether. This is achievable by switching to using durable, versatile and plastic-like biopolymers.

A biopolymer future

Biodegradable biopolymers, such as those developed by Teysha Technologies, are showing promise as plastic alternatives. This technology may eventually help steer the industry away from non-renewable, petroleum-based plastics.

The past five years have seen Teysha achieve a landmark breakthrough in its second-generation biopolymer. Made from natural feedstocks, such as starches and agricultural waste, this versatile polymer can be physically, mechanically and chemically tuned to meet the needs of the automotive industry.

Crucially, these biopolymers overcome many of the challenges of existing biopolymers, like the fact that their hydrolytic breakdown can be controlled — and unlike conventional biopolymers, they can be made to biodegrade in nature, and without the use of industrial catalysts.

All plastic elements of a car could make use of biodegradable biopolymers, from carpets to crumples zones. If every automotive manufacturer were to make this transition, the resource-intensive refining of plastics would soon become obsolete.

Agricultural waste into biopolymers?

Agricultural waste into biopolymers? 365 365 Lanna Cooper

Southeast Asian regions are some of the biggest worldwide agriculture producers, as well as the main areas responsible for biomass wastes, such as agricultural residues, wood biomass, animal waste and municipal solid waste, while also producing, millions of tonnes of single use plastics.

To tackle such waste head-on, Teysha Technologies has developed a patented chemistry platform that can be used to transform agriculture waste into a wide variety of sustainable packaging and construction materials.

In the southern Asiatic regions, including Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, more than 38 million tonnes of rice husk and 34 million tonnes of bagasse are produced every year. Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are also responsible for producing more than 90% of global palm oil, which consequently causes 27 million tonnes of waste per annum from fruit bunches (EFBs), fibres, shells and liquid effluent.

Although Southern regions in Asia are major worldwide agriculture producers, farming practices are sometimes antiquated and often environmentally harmful. Every year, thousands of tonnes of biomasses, including stems, leaves and seed pods, are destroyed, waste from crops are commonly left in the field to decompose or – much worse – burned, causing approximately 13% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent study in Science Direct.

This technique of burning agriculture waste is often referred to as slash-and-burn, which involves large fires and can greatly contribute to mass deforestation. This practice causes air pollution as many toxic gasses, such as methane, nitrogen oxide and ammonia are released in the atmosphere. Breathing these gases can in turn pose more health risks, such as the respiratory illness asthma, chronic bronchitis as well as eye and skin diseases.

In Indonesia, for example, agricultural businesses regularly use the slash and burn method to clear vegetation and waste from their land every year. Indonesia’s national disaster agency counted more than 328,724 hectares of land burnt from January to August 2019, which caused the closure of schools and offices as the haze reached very unhealthy levels on the Air Pollutants Index (API).

“Burning the agriculture waste destroys the quality of the soil. When crops are burnt, existing minerals and organic material are destroyed, such as the cellulose and the sugar from the trees, starch from tapioca, corn and wheat; and even coconut, palm, soy and rapeseed, all of which are potentially valuable natural resources” said Matthew Stone, Chairman at Teysha Technologies.

“Large multinational agricultural conglomerates often own and operate both upstream agricultural production and downstream manufacturing, packaging and distribution operations in Asia. Meaning, they are not only responsible for large scale agriculture waste, but also for the use of millions of tonnes of single use plastic every year in their product packaging, plastic which is polluting rivers and oceans at an unacceptable rate.

“In a 2015 report, the non-profit organisation Ocean Conservancy noted that 55-60% of plastic waste entering the world’s oceans comes from just five countries, including four in the region: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The debris kills marine life and breaks down into microparticles that make their way into the food chain.

China alone is responsible for producing 8.8 million metric tonnes of plastic waste that goes directly into our oceans. At this rate, according to the World Economic Forum report, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

“Instead of using traditional petrochemical plastics in their production and distribution networks, large agriculture conglomerates could embrace new biopolymer technology and profit from their vast waste streams, while saving the planet from incessant pollution. Waste from common crops like sugar bagasse, tapioca, corn and wheat contain cellulose and starch, two natural raw materials that our chemical engineers can use to create a second generation of bioplastics and help reduce waste in a sustainable way.”

Teysha Technologies is an innovative UK company that has been making huge inroads into producing biopolymers from organic feedstocks. The versatile technology platform they have created is based on polymers derived entirely from natural feedstocks which can degrade in natural environments within a relatively short period of time. Most importantly, these polymers are a realistic substitute for existing petroleum-based polycarbonates.

“Teysha’s technology is a plug-and-play system that use monomers and co-monomers – also known as the natural building blocks that make up plastic – to create a polymer that works and functions like normal plastic,” explained Stone: “Instead of using hydrocarbon-based petrochemicals sourced from fossil fuels, Teysha uses natural sources such as starches and agricultural waste products.

“The positive aspect of this platform is that the physical, mechanical and chemical properties of the polymers can be tuned to make them usable in a wide variety of applications and materials.”

The strength, toughness, durability and longevity of Teysha Technologies’ polymers can suit multiple different uses. That means it’s possible to create either rigid or flexible materials, or even different polymers with different thermal properties. Most importantly, it is possible to control the biodegradation of the polymers, which means their breakdown can be effectively scheduled for within weeks or years. At the point of degradation, they will break down back to their basic natural building blocks, which is beneficial to the environment.

As the worldwide sustainably and plastic pollution policy changes rapidly, the Asian market needs new and effective strategies to make the best use of their abundant natural resources whilst protecting their rivers and oceans. Platforms like the ones created by Teysha can play a vital part in this sustainability mission.

The broken promises of plastic substitutes

The broken promises of plastic substitutes 1094 810 Packaging Europe

The commercial shift to alternative packaging types isn’t working — so what will? Dr Ashlee Jahnke, research director of biodegradable bioplastics developer Teysha Technologies, explains why she believes polymer research holds the key. 

From paper straws and cotton bags to paper composite drinks cartons and glass bottles, environmental concerns have driven several changes in the food and packaging industry, in recent years. Many of these shifts have emerged as a knee-jerk reaction to consumer anti-plastic sentiment, but these abrupt alterations are not as environmentally-sound as they might first appear.

“There’s a lot of pressure to move to alternatives [to plastics], which aren’t necessarily better from an environmental and climate impact point of view”. This comment was made by a supermarket representative interviewed in the recent Plastic Promises report, published by Green Alliance in January 2020.

Although spoken from a retail perspective, the comment summarises the challenge faced by packaging businesses around the world. The wider report also draws attention to the issues that surround substituting plastics, especially when there is consumer demand to accelerate the transition.

It goes without saying that planning, production design, packaging or manufacturing involving plastics should involve due consideration of their environmental impact, with engineering and scientific rigor. However, environmental decisions spurred on by public pressure — be they knee-jerk or well-meaning — have frequently led to sudden changes being made without sufficient consideration of their consequences or ramifications. For example, many beverage brands have used conventional plastics in their processes for many years. As awareness of the plastic pollution problem increases, these processes have been adapted to use more bio-based polymers such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is recyclable but still majorly derived from petrochemical sources. Some manufacturers have moved further from plastics and adopted glass bottle packaging, which presents the first of several complications that arise when replacing plastics. Specifically, the carbon footprint.

The carbon footprint of packaging will vary depending on the manufacturing process, material, source and supply chain. As noted in a review published by the South African Journal of Industrial Engineering in 2016, the typical global warming potential (GWP) of producing one 500 ml PET bottle was approximately 2,858 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per hectolitre (gCO2e/hl). For 300 ml glass bottles, it was significantly higher at 22,249 gCO2e/hl. This would be only 14.2 g of CO2 emissions per 500 ml PET bottle, compared with 66.7 g per 300 ml glass bottle.

Of course, that is just one review and further studies may vary. However, the findings do highlight the importance of considering environmental implications of carbon footprint when selecting plastic substitutes. Similarly, choosing alternatives requires careful consideration of the available recycling infrastructure.

When the fast food retailer McDonald’s launched its paper straws, it later admitted that there may be challenges in recycling them, whereas the previous plastic ones had been readily recyclable. Likewise, for several years, many areas of the UK faced significant challenges in recycling Tetra Pak composite cartons. Although these cartons were sold as being environmentally-friendly, issues arose due to aluminium foil liners and polyethylene caps on the packaging.

Today, similar challenges are encountered by drink manufacturers that are swapping plastic bottles for composite cartons with coated interiors. This is commonly done by many supermarket-owned brands, in recent years, in an effort to cut back on plastics. Most brands assume these can be recycled, but that often depends on the available recycling infrastructure that is a pressing issue in many countries.

This is all without considering the consumer convenience aspect. Although many consumers are well-intentioned, plastic packaging and single-use applications rose to prevalence because they are convenient. A fragile, glass bottle does not offer the same levels of versatility, or convenience, as plastic. It also presents a direct and immediate health risk if disposed of improperly — after all, approximately, only 45 per cent of waste is recycled in the UK.

So, what’s the solution? Unsurprisingly, it’s not a simple question to answer. Many nuances must be considered in plastic substitutes, from their recyclability and global warming potential (GWP) to their versatility and suitability for applications. What we can say with some confidence, however, is that research into polymers is invaluable.

For example, at Teysha Technologies, we have spent years extensively researching biodegradable biopolymers. These polymers are derived from entirely natural feedstocks and, crucially, can degrade in natural environments within a relatively short period of time. One solution that we‘ve developed helps to overcome the challenges of versatility, which are traditionally faced by biodegradable and bio-based polymers.

This solution is a plug-and-play platform of sorts, where modified natural-product monomers and various co-monomers can be utilised. Additives can also be used to modify the properties of the polymer that’s being produced, which allows materials scientists to form materials that vary greatly in their thermal, mechanical and degradability properties.

In effect, these biodegradable biopolymers could be the ideal candidates to replace conventional plastics derived from petrochemical feedstocks. These polymers could be used without any sacrifice to the performance of a material in a given application, and without swapping to more carbon-intensive or non-recyclable alternatives.

One challenge that can’t be avoided is that these changes take time. However, if we can learn anything from the sudden plastic substitutions of recent years, it’s that transitioning to packaging materials that are truly more environmentally-friendly must be a process, rather than a leap. With true investment, in terms of engineering and materials science, there is no reason why environmental concerns cannot be tackled head-on by developments in polymer technologies.