An innovative polymer composition created in the Department of Polymers Technology at the GUT Faculty of Chemistry allows the production of ecological, biodegradable single-use cutlery. The invention could be used to replace disposable items, such as plastic forks, straws or plates, made of traditional synthetic materials which were effectively banned by the European Parliament.
"Our biopolymers are created with easily accessible raw materials, which are either natural or produced from renewable sources. This is already a significant advantage over commonly used petroleum products", explains Prof. Helena Janik, head of the research team. The innovative composition includes components such as thermoplastic starch obtained from potato flour, natural additives and a polymer known as polylactide (PLA).
"Properly selected type and amount of thermoplastic starch modificator mixed with the right PLA composition create recyclable, compostable material, ensuring the required physical and mechanical properties of the product", Prof. Janik adds.
Disposable products made of such mixture are durable and eco-friendly. They can be composted with leftovers and biodegrade completely.
Another advantage of this invention is the readily available method of producing single-use items.
"Starch granules and its PLA compositions are thermoplastic, so they can be formed with injection molding or extrusion, which are considered to be some of the cheapest and fastest methods of shaping traditional synthetic materials", Prof. Helena Janik says.
One of the first products created with this composition and ready for implementation are disposable cutlery. Technological tests involving prototype production on an industrial scale were carried out in cooperation with a company interested in introducing this solution, proving that the composition is more heat resistant than products made only of PLA.
There is another factor characterizing the Gdańsk University of Technology invention, making it particularly interesting for entrepreneurs.
"Thanks to adding cheap thermoplastic starch to PLA, the price of 1 kg of our composition is 15% lower than the cost of polylactide itself, while the entire production method is very easy to introduce", assures Maciej Sienkiewicz, PhD Eng., co-creator of the technology.
Research carried out in accredited laboratories, testing for compostability, biodegradability and impact on water environment turned out very promising, proving the superiority of the GUT compositions in comparison to other solutions available on the market.
The polymer compositions are subjects of the European patent No. EP3064542 and are protected in Poland, Germany, France and in the UK.
Entrepreneurs interested in the invention can contact Mr. Robert Bajko, innovation broker at the Gdańsk University of Technology Centre for Knowledge and Technology Transfer: tel. 00 48 58 348 63 93, e-mail: email@example.com.