New bioplastics for bottles, car parts tested by NDSU researchers


Graduate students used FARGO, N.D- in a North Dakota State University’s noisy industrial lab, an injection-molding machine, in making dog bones. Since there are no dogs available, the research students use the bone-shaped pieces of plastic in testing the strength of the new bioplastics. 

The research effort formally named the Center for Bioplastics as well as Bio-composites situated at NDSU but happening together with three more universities: Lowa State, University of Washington, as well as University of Georgia. 

Meanwhile, bioplastics have only a small share of plastics market currently, some big firms like The Coca-Cola Company, Ford Motor Co and 3M, are becoming part of the research effort.  More plant-based plastics expected by scientists to be able to find their way into the daily products. 

The professor of NDSU David Grewell oversees the whole project. He told Minnesota Public Radio News that bioplastics make up less than 3 percent of plastics market, but that is set to change. 

Grewell said that looking at what Coca-Cola is doing, most of their bottles are one-third bioplastic, and it is an excellent example of the bio-economy growth. He added that about 15-20 % of the bio-plastic industry witnessed growth. He said that if his 401(K) were growing at 15-20 % annually, he would be pleased. 

Car firms are making use of bio-plastics in their new vehicles, and most food packages are often bio-based plastics. 

However, it would be consumers challenging to notice when using a bio-based product.  Mostly those items are recognized, but Grewell stated that the market does not deal with standard labeling, like the upside-down triangles which had numbers used to show customers the kind of plastic that can be recycled. Bio-plastics are, in most cases, given#7, a catchall label for other plastics if they give label.

The research initiative aims to do away with the plastics made from petroleum with bio-plastics. This is because the petroleum-based plastics are dominant in the industry, in almost everything from car parts to beverage bottles, since bioplastics are not necessarily biodegradable on the contrary to what few might be thinking.

Grewell stated that Ford Motor Company does not consider putting a component in the vehicle that will break down in a few years. He added that those things needed to last for an extended period, and because of that, they need to improve on public education. 

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