SCIENTISTS are trying to kill two birds with one stone by turning seaweed into biodegradable packaging.
Every year tonnes of Posidonia seaweed is cleared from the Valencian region’s beaches, particularly after storms.
Now the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI) is supporting a pilot proof of concept trial by the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA), to produce biodegradable bags and packaging from the remains of Posidonia Oceanica.
The initiative aims to monetise what is at the moment a significant expense for municipalities in the Valencian Community and come up with a sustainable alternative to plastic.
The project is based on a new process patented by IATA to optimise the production of cellulose from vegetable biomass, both Posidonia and other sources (such as rice straw), which significantly reduces the production costs of bioplastics.
This new methodology results in materials with very competitive properties when compared to plastic but at lower cost to other bio-options available on the market.
The work is carried out in collaboration with Instituto Tecnológico del Embalaje, Transporte y Logística, (ITENE), which will evaluate if the material produced in the pilot scheme is suitable for large scale production and use.
AVI will contribute nearly €140,000 to the development of this proof of concept as part of its line of support for the transfer of research results into commercially viable processes.
The new process devised by IATA opens up a new field for the manufacture and marketing of biodegradable bags, given that it solves problems among the alternatives on the market, which are mainly produced from foodstuffs such as potatoes, corn or sugar cane and are much more expensive.
The optimisation of processes and the use of waste as a raw material not only makes the final bill for this new generation of bioplastics cheaper, but also contributes to boosting the circular economy in the Valencian Community. In fact, the project is aligned with the challenges and solutions that the AVI committee of specialists in this field identified only a few months ago.
This multidisciplinary group, in which representatives of the scientific community, technological institutes and businesses participate, places both the development of more sustainable packaging and the more efficient recovery of waste among the priorities for innovation in circular economy.