Daily Express

Nat­u­ral ri­val to plas­tics

- By John Ing­ham En­vi­ron­ment Ed­i­tor Ecology · Consumer Goods · Marine Conservation Society

NAT­U­RAL in­gre­di­ents are be­ing used in a biodegrad­able al­ter­na­tive to plas­tic which has been de­vel­oped by Bri­tish sci­en­tists who claim it could be a “turn­ing point” in the pol­lu­tion bat­tle.

The prod­uct, called To­raphene, uses sources such as sea­weed, maize, su­gar beet, mush­rooms and bac­te­ria.

It com­bines biopoly­mers from liv­ing or­gan­isms such as plants with graphene – a car­bon de­riv­a­tive which is tougher than di­a­monds at the atomic level.

To­raphene is de­scribed as “the world’s first truly biodegrad­able, com­postable and com­mer­cially vi­able al­ter­na­tive to plas­tic pack­ag­ing”.

Gaute Juliussen, of the Lon­don­based firm named af­ter the prod­uct, wants to make plas­tic pack­ag­ing, which is worth £ 3tril­lion, ob­so­lete.

He claims To­raphene is stronger, thin­ner and less per­me­able than al­ter­na­tives which im­proves food safety and shelf- life.

Plas­tic’s ver­sa­til­ity means it has been used world­wide but about 10 mil­lion tons of it en­ter oceans ev­ery year.

Most if it is even­tu­ally shred­ded by rocks, wind and waves and sinks to the seabed and en­ters the food chain.

One study pre­dicted that at cur­rent rates there will be more plas­tic by weight in the sea than fish by 2050.

Gaute, a Nor­we­gian in­vestor look­ing for fund­ing to con­tinue de­vel­op­ment, said many ex­ist­ing plas­tic al­ter­na­tives break down in pro­duc­tion or re­sult in the re­lease of mi­croplas­tics.

He said: “Plas­tic waste is known to be a huge, global prob­lem and many plas­tic al­ter­na­tives now ex­ist, so why don’t we see them ev­ery­where?

“It’s be­cause they need spe­cific man- made con­di­tions to biode­grade, and many de­grade into mi­croplas­tics.”

Mean­while, the Marine Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety wants peo­ple to fit a £ 30 fil­ter on the waste pipe of new wash­ing ma­chines to re­duce mi­crofi­bres from laun­dry. Nor­mal loads can re­lease up to 700,000 of the plas­tic threads.

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