A couple of students at the National Polytechnic Institute (NPI) in Mexico have developed a plastic that is non toxic and can degrade in a matter of seconds.
Plastic bags are bad for the environment as they are non-biodegradable and it takes years for them to disintegrate. Besides, fossil fuels are used in their manufacture, with the consequent release of polluting gases into the atmosphere, and thus a greener alternative would be welcomed by environmentally aware consumers.
José Alfredo Carbajal Herrera and Víctor Hugo Reyes García have now solved this problem and are the creators of a new plastic, a biodegradable vinyl made from corn leaves that incorporates ‘very simple single-bonded hydrocarbon chains’ and can disintegrate in just seconds, Reyes says.
They presented their results at the 20th Prototypes Fair that took place last weekend and was organised by the NPI. During the event the students introduced a portion of their polymer in bottles containing water, showing that it dissolved in a few seconds. To then demonstrate the safety of the material they took sips from the bottles explaining that toxicity tests had received excellent results and thus the material can be ingested or used as fertiliser.
Although the exact nature of the polymers has not yet been disclosed – it is pending patent approval – it is known that the amount of catalyst added to the polymer during the manufacturing process can be varied to achieve degradation times of seconds, hours, days, and so on to suit clients’ needs. And who would their customers be? Well, Carbajal and Reyes are confident that their product will attract manufacturers of car parts, plastic bags and even toys.
A bit of advice: children’s toys made with this material should not be left overnight in the garden. They may have disappeared come the morning dew…
Bibiana Campos Seijo