The resulting material shows high mechanical strength, stability when containing liquids and resistance to ultraviolet light. It is a new bioplastic developed by taking advantage of wood by-products, according to a study published in Nature Sustainability .
It can also be safely recycled or biodegraded in the natural environment, and has a lower life-cycle environmental impact compared to petroleum-based plastics and other biodegradable plastics.
Discarded wood dust
The researchers used a wood dust, a processing residue typically discarded as waste in sawmills, and deconstructed the loose, porous structure of the powder with a recyclable and biodegradable deep eutectic solvent (DES).
As Yuan Yao , assistant professor of industrial ecology and sustainable systems at Yale University School of the Environment (YSE) explains:
There are many people who have tried to develop these types of polymers into plastic, but the mechanical threads are not good enough to replace the plastics we use today, which are made mainly from fossil fuels. We have developed a simple and straightforward manufacturing process that generates biomass-based plastics from wood, but also plastics that also offer good mechanical properties.
While the process currently uses wood by-products in manufacturing, the researchers note that they are aware that large-scale production could require the use of massive amounts of wood, which could have far-reaching implications for forests , for example. The research team continues to investigate the potential impact on forests if the manufacture of this bioplastic is expanded.