Global production and consumption of plastic has grown exponentially over the last forty years. It is estimated that over 8 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced and 60% or more has ended up in landfills, the natural environment and the oceans. More than one million plastic bottles are now produced every minute around the world, many of them for single-use bottled water.

An Irish team, led by the Materials Research Institute (MRI) at Athlone Institute of Technology, and called INSPIRE (Innovative Sustainable Packaging Ireland), hopes to find or develop a more environmentally friendly way to address the challenges of plastic entering the environment.

It is also estimated that more than 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year through inefficiencies in the food supply chain. Weak infrastructure, food storage problems, best-before date issues, processing and packaging, and just the ability to keep food fresh, leads to significant losses for farmers and producers as well as increased costs for the consumer. The introduction of a sustainable, compostable plastic could greatly reduce this wastage.

The team at INSPIRE hope to make the production of plastic more environmentally friendly by utilising food waste and biomass to generate a range of materials capable of replacing petroleum-based polymers for packaging applications. They hope to develop or use special polymers that can be composted after use to make plastic production more sustainable. Read more…