Replacement for plastic materials based on biomimicry

Expandable polystyrene is one of the plastics we depend on today due to its durability, low weight, thermal properties, water resistance and shock absorption capacity. For instance, it is used to package perishable food so that it remains fresh and cool. Most of the applications of this material are in the production of packaging and insulation. Unfortunately, such versatility comes at a high price: Every year approximately 2 million tons go to landfills, in addition to being a pollutant of the seas since it never fully biodegrades. On the contrary, it generates fragments that cause damage and death to marine life.   

Biomimicry is broad and allows solutions that are sustainable for the planet. Two companies have made efforts to find replacements of this plastic using agricultural waste, generating excellent results. On the one hand, the Philippine company Fortuna Cools is dedicated to the production of coolers that use coconut husk as insulation, which is a byproduct of the oil production industry. In the words of its owner, "Coconut shell has evolved to protect coconut meat and insulate it from the tropical sun, being a natural refrigerator. This husks are currently burned as waste. When we process it and use it for our products, we keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and plastics out of landfills or oceans.” Today, the raw material is supplied by nearly 1,000 small-scale producing families, providing income as well as other welfate benefits. The material is intrinsically biodegradable and after being used as a thermal insulator it can be used as compost.

On the other hand Cruz Foamis a company founded in California that created a patented material based on chitin (a material found in plants, insects, crustaceans and fungi) that can replace plastic materials derived from oil production. The source of their product is shrimp carcasses, which is usually waste that is sent to landfills. Its creators have studied and used biomimicry for its creation since the design conceptualization of the product. Chitin is processed with an alkaline solution to produce chitosan, a material that allows to produce a flexible foam that can be processed through conventional extrusion machines.


Source: Sustainable Brands      

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