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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Carbios Announces Milestone in Controlled Biodegradation Process for Disposable Soft Plastics

Carbios, a French green chemistry company specializing in technologies enabling the recovery of plastic waste and the production of bio-polymers, has announced a significant step forward in the development of its controlled biodegradation process for disposable soft plastics.

With its new process, Carbios says it obtained completely biodegradable plastic material in domestic conditions. The material, comprised of an oil-based polymer and an enzyme, loses 50 percent of its mass in 15 days and completely biodegrades in less than three months, making Carbios’ technology an effective potential industrial answer to legal concerns around how to better control the end of life of disposable and short-life plastics.

At the end of 2013, Carbios managed to preserve catalytic activity of enzymes after adding them to plastic material and exposing them to temperatures as high as 338°F to its composition. This week’s milestone allows Carbios to consider commercial applications on a global scale for this material, including in the agricultural sector, particularly for mulching films, and in the packaging industry, especially for disposable food.

"We are proud of this new breakthrough, which emphasizes the synergy between Carbios and our academic partners as well as the efficiency of our approach and which will bring us one step closer to an industrialized process. This significant advance shows that we can envision an expansion of Ségolène Royal's amendment1, without jeopardizing France's environmental goals or the plastics industry's ambitions," concluded Jean-Claude Lumaret, CEO of Carbios.

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With the support of its longtime partner VALAGRO, Carbios says it will draw on this success and continue to develop its controlled biodegradation process for disposable soft plastics.

The variety and viability of biodegradable plastics continue to grow, representing potential solutions to the proliferation of plastic waste around the world:

  • In October, Italian biotech firm Bio-on announced it has developed a bioplastic called PHA (Polyhydroxyalkanoate), made from agricultural processing waste materials, which is 100 percent biodegradable in water and soil and can be used as a substrate for electric circuits. When combined with suitable nanofillers, the polymer can act as an electricity conductor, with the potential of replacing plastics in most electronics. The company says the use of PHAs can help put a dent in the 50 million tons of waste produced worldwide every year from discarded smartphones, tablets, computers and other electronics.
  • Also in October, BASF announced a partnership with Heritage Plastics, Inc to bring production of its ecovio® compostable bioplastic products, previously only produced in Europe, to North America. BASF’s ecovio products contain renewable, biobased materials; are certified compostable worldwide; and thus far have been used in plastic films such as organic waste bags, dual-use bags (first for shopping, then for organic waste) and agricultural films, as well as compostable packaging solutions such as paper-lamination, shrink films, foam packaging and injection-molding products.
  • And earlier this month, UK specialty paper and advanced materials manufacturer James Cropper PLC unveiled a 100 percent renewable, biodegradable alternative to plastic that the company says can carry the weight of an adult and be composted within 100 days. Developed in partnership with Södra, a Swedish forestry cooperative, DuraPulp is a bio-composite material that consists of specially selected pulp and a renewable biopolymer. After additional processing, the two components take on special properties, such as moisture resistance, strength and rigidity, and can be suitable for a variety of applications.

**1**Promoted by Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, an amendment was recently added to the biodiversity bill currently under review by the French Parliament to ban from supermarkets single-use plastic bags that are not home compostable and ​not entirely or partially made of bio-based materials, beginning January 1st, 2016. While Carbios supports this new measure, which is consistent with its strategy, the company would like the amendment to adopt a more holistic approach and expand its aim to include all types of biodegradable plastic materials, and not just bio-based ones.

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