A research team in Tokyo (Japan) has developed a method to convert bioplastics into fertilizer, and this invention promises to have even greater implications.
The process of recycling bioplastic waste by Japanese scientists
The process of recycling bioplastic waste by Japanese scientists. Graphics: Tokyo Institute of Technology
Single-use bioplastics are a major environmental problem, polluting everything from the deepest ocean trench in the Mariana Earth’s crust to the world’s highest summit of Everest.
Statistics show that only 14% of plastic waste is actually recycled. While many experts and advocates argue that the solution to this problem is to create a revolving system whereby plastic is reused instead of thrown away.
To achieve this goal, a team of scientists based in Tokyo (Japan) has developed a method to convert bioplastics into fertilizer. But they say their findings have even broader implications for future plastic recycling.
Study co-author and assistant professor Daisuke Aoki of the Tokyo Institute of Technology said: “We are optimistic and believe our work is an important milestone towards the development of durable polymeric materials sustainable and recyclable in the near future. This means that the era of ‘plastic bread’ is also coming.”
The study, recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Green Chemistry, focuses on poly(isosorbide carbonate) (PIC) resins of biological origin.
Bioplastics are plastics made from biomass that have been proposed as a more sustainable alternative to petroleum-based plastics. Specifically, PIC is made of a monomer (the building block of a polymolecule) called isosorbide (ISB), a non-toxic by-product of glucose.
ISB can be turned into fertilizer through a process called ammonolysis: ammonia is used to separate the carbon that connects the ISB monomers. This produces urea, which is a nitrogen-rich substance that makes a common fertilizer.
With new technology, plastic can do more than support plant growth that can become fertilizer.
Source: Vietnam Agriculture