Biodegradable plastic from animal protein waste
"When industries are clustered, the waste from one can become the input for another. In fact, to achieve environmentally sustainable development, industries must make use of each other's waste to the fullest extent possible."
Five Years after Rio: UNU's Responses to Agenda 21, University, 1997.
Low-value animal protein is being given a new life as highvalue plastic with the discovery of a new manufacturing process by two University of Waikato scientists.
The process, developed over two years by chemical engineer Dr Johan Verbeek and Masters student Lisa van den Berg, can turn protein from animal processing waste into a biodegradable plastic using industry-standard plastic extrusion and injection moulding machinery.
The innovative approach uses low-value meat industry waste to create a high-value product that breaks down when disposed of without polluting the environment. "The material we can produce has the strength of polyethylene – the plastic used in milk bottles and plastic supermarket bags – but it's fully biodegradable," says Dr Verbeek. The bioplastic is expected to be suitable for a wide range of applications.
The technology is in the early stages of development, with further improvements to production techniques and processes required before being market ready. This work is being funded by the University of Waikato's commercialisation arm, WaikatoLink, and carried out through the Hothouse, its technology development unit.
Novatein, the company formed to take the technology to market, has received capital from venture capital firm Endeavour Capital to facilitate further development of this innovative technology.
DEPARTMENT OF ENGINEERINGFACULTY OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING