Read the full story from Osaka University.
The main cause of marine debris accumulation is the dumping of plastic waste into the oceans, as most plastic does not degrade when left in the environment. Marine biodegradable plastics have previously been developed in Japan, with PHBH (by Kaneka Corporation) and PBS (by Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation) currently available. However, these are both categorized as aliphatic polyesters and are of poor quality compared to conventional plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene, while being producible only in low yields (approximately tens of thousands of tons per year compared to an annual global production of 300 million tons for conventional plastics) and at more than twice the cost of that of conventional plastics, all of which are factors that have limited their use. Thus, there has been a strong demand for the development of a low-cost and mass-producible marine biodegradable plastic to tackle the growing problem of marine debris.
A group of researchers led by Associate Professor Taka-Aki Asoh and Professor Hiroshi Uyama of the Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University, has, in collaboration with Nihon Shokuhin Kako Co., combined the ubiquitous biomasses starch and cellulose to develop a marine biodegradable plastic.