An Australian company has created packaging that can break down naturally outside of industrial conditions.
Twelve8 Technology has produced an additive that can be mixed with conventional polymers, triggering a degradation of the overall plastic composition within 2 years.
Under natural circumstances, virgin plastics can take anywhere from a several hundred to thousand years to break down into their separate molecular building blocks.
The additive will commence decomposition when activated by sunlight or thermal heat. To prevent too rapid biodegradation, consumers can prefigure the length of a possible delay period. Said period can range from 6 months to 4 years.
Decomposition itself will entail two major stages.
The first entails the introduction of oxygen to the plastic carbon chain. The patented resin significantly breaks down the plastic’s molecular weight (Mw), from 300,000 to 4,100 Mw. The end product at this stage can be likened to a watery paste with regards to its consistency.
The second stage sees said paste reduced by microbes and parasites into air, water and less than 1% of biomass.
Packaging manufactured by Twelve8 Technology includes disposable cups, trays, films, wraps, bags, bottles, containers as well as caps. The blended plastics have similar properties to regular polymers and are safe for food contact.
The degradation of the additive-blended plastic does not result in the generation of microplastics. These tiny pieces of plastic residue weathered down from larger plastic products or intentionally developed that small potentially expose marine mammals and sea organisms to toxic chemicals upon exposure.
Initial testing of the material’s possible breakdown in marine environments has proven promising though further testing is required prior to official certification.
Twelve8 supplies select 7-Eleven stores in Hong Kong with packaging but also supplies Starbucks, Domino’s and Vitasoy.
The brand is currently looking to expand its market to the US, possible clients including a large poultry brand as well as a global frozen chips producer.