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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Oshenite®:
The Marine Mineral That Could Revolutionize Plastic Packaging

Oshenite®, a bioplastic additive produced from a renewable marine mineral called oolitic aragonite, allows environmentally conscience brand owners and manufacturers to produce or use plastic packaging with reduced amounts of fossil fuel-based resins. Produced by U.S. Aragonite, Oshenite can replace these resins in a wide range of flexible and rigid applications and offers environmental and economic benefits — both without sacrificing performance or contaminating recycling streams.

Oshenite is oolitic aragonite, a mineral that constantly replenishes itself as part of a unique ocean phenomenon occurring on the Bahaman Bank approximately 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Oolitic aragonite has biogenic origins — as temperatures change in the shallow waters, microscopic bio matter such as plankton and algae are churned in carbonate-rich waters. Crystalline layers slowly build to form an oolite; when they become heavy enough to sink (approximately 4-5 years), countless millions of these oolites precipitate, forming oolitic aragonite sediment banks of ultra-pure calcium carbonate.

Dr. Ramani Narayan, Michigan State University Professor of Chemical Engineering and Material Science, is spearheading the USDA classification of Oshenite as a biocarbonate. He is also involved in documenting the carbon footprint impact of Oshenite use. During formation of the oolitic aragonite, specifically during the mineralization phase, organic carbon is captured. Photosynthesis occurs during the process, so inorganic carbon is also captured from the atmosphere. Because carbon is sequestered from the atmosphere during the natural production phase, the use of this material can help reduce a company’s overall carbon footprint; according to the American Forest Association, using 1mm lbs of Oshenite has the same carbon-reducing effect as planting 92 trees. For every 1mm lbs of Oshenite used, 4400 lbs of carbon are removed from the atmosphere.

Oshenite can be added to resins and products to enhance bio-based plastics. By incorporating the mineral, both economics and physical characteristics are improved — both without the addition of a nonrenewable component. Other benefits include faster degradation times due to Oshenite's high pH factor, and a potentially unlimited supply: The 500-square-mile harvesting area produces approximately 2.8 billion lbs per year. The greater Bahamas oolitic aragonite sands generate 50-100 million tons, and vast amounts pushed from tides and hurricanes drop into the Florida straits, leaving a constantly recycled reserve to fuel sustainable mineral creation. U.S. Aragonite Enterprises, LLC, the exclusive distributor of Oshenite for the plastics industry, is committed to never harvesting more than the amount naturally produced annually. Studies also show that harvesting the Oshenite sediment helps restore sea grasses and marine life.

The potential of Oshenite becoming a practical replacement for fossil fuel-based resins is significant. Offering economic, performance and environmental benefits in all plastic processes, the opportunities are limitless. Depending on the application, Oshenite can replace up to 60% or more of petroleum-based resins. Due to its unique morphology, it can also replace more expensive minerals such as talc and diatomaceous earth.

With its carbon sequestration capabilities and ability to be used without detrimental effects on the recycling stream, Oshenite could become a key element in reducing the impact of plastic packaging. In the less than two years since its launch, the first “made with Oshenite®” products, including large plastic totes from Western Industries, are now available at Walmart and other mass retailers. Using “Made with Oshenite®” products supports a collective movement towards environmental awareness. Not only is the choice to use Oshenite economically advantageous, it is also advantageous for our country. Using this practical material alternative will help reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuel-based resins as well as energy-intensive and non-renewable mined resources.

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