Amongst all of the materials that we rely on in our modern world, arguably none have become more ubiquitous than plastics. Despite current trends to reduce plastics, we still rely heavily on their use. The bulk of today's plastics are made from petrochemicals, which makes them increasingly unsustainable and their disposal can pose a major environmental hazard.
Principal Investigator Professor Sally Brooker, University of Otago, and her team are investigating a catalyst-based approach to producing compostable bioplastics. Their source material is corn, which contains large quantities of a compound called lactide.
With the aid of a suitable catalyst, single molecules of lactide building blocks join to form a long chain, to produce polylactide, a biodegradable plastic that can be used in a host of products.
With competing catalysts already on the market, Professor Brooker's aim is to improve their catalyst even further.
If we get it right, industry will certainly stand up and take notice.Professor Sally Brooker MacDiarmid Institute Principal Investigator University of Otago