An Italian company specialized in the production of environmentally sustainable materials has created its Minverv PHAs. These are ‘green’ biopolymers with the same thermo-mechanical properties of the substances that make up the traditional plastics, but are instead 100% biodegradable.
The goal was to create a plastic that does not pollute the environment and Bio-On, company from Bologna (Italy) is specialized in the production of eco-friendly materials. The idea behind this new innovative biopolymer is to recycle processed waste from agro-industrial producers, including excess potato plants. Minverv PHAs will be produced from 2017 by Bio-On in Minerbio, a small area near Bologna – where the first Italian plant dedicated to the development of sustainable biopolymer will be set.
The first known bioplastic, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), was discovered in 1926 by a French researcher, Maurice Lemoigne, from his work with the bacterium Bacillus megaterium. The modern result using an adapted form of this technique is Minverv PHAs (Polyhydroxyalkanoates developed using beets), a green biopolymer that may one day help solve the problem of waste disposal.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are linear polyesters produced in naturally by bacterial fermentation of sugars. More than 100 different monomers can be joined by this family to create materials with extremely different properties. After fermentation, the organic polymer is isolated and extracted without organic solvents, and used to create any type of plastic product in an ecofriendly manner.
Minverv PHAs are completely natural, explains Marco Astorri, president of Bio-on, and their production involves non-pathogenic bacteria. These PHAs are a very versatile product, which can be the base of many everyday objects icluding chairs, table lamps but also could be potentially used in biomedical materials production.
For example Bio-on and FLOS (a lighting Designer) presented the first product made with bio plastic PHAs, 100% biodegradable in water (should you ever wish to throw it overboard…). Other applications which Minverv PHAs could be licensed for include food packaging, drinks bottles, clothing fibres, automotive parts and electronics.
According to Bio-On, PHAs are also the only types of plastic which biodegrade in the ocean…a type of polymer which therefore represents the future of biodegradability worldwide.
Natural elimination of a biopolymers in water in just a few days is a rarely achieved and is an exceedingly tough challenge for Bioplastic researchers. Other bio-plastics manufacturers looking to do the same include Carbios from France, who recently opened a new factory in the Auvergne region.
Development of better bioplastics is therefore of chief importance, with the growing rates of plastic consumption and soaring prices of oil (not to mention the environmental impact) means something needs to change the sustainability game.