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The Past, Present and Future of Plastics

Plastic is becoming part of our past, but eliminating it is easier said than done

The Lempert Report

In the 1967 film "The Graduate," Dustin Hoffman was told the future was in plastics. It seems like these days everyone is rushing to get rid of plastic—shopping bags, containers, straws and stirrers. Plastic is quickly becoming part of our past, not future, especially in the food world. But it is easier said than done as companies scramble for replacements.vAlmost all plastics–about 90%–are petroleum-based and are not biodegradable, a major environmental concern.

Scientists at Ohio State University may have come up with a solution: New research has shown that combining natural rubber with bioplastic in a specific way, melting the rubber into a plant-based thermoplastic called PHBV, along with organic peroxide and another additive called TMPTA, results in a much stronger replacement for plastic, one that is already capturing the interest of companies looking to shrink their environmental footprints, according to Ohio State News.

Other research teams have combined rubber and PHBV, but the products have been too weak to withstand all the demands of a food package—from processing to shipping to handling in stores and homes, especially containers that are used for freezing and then microwaving, said the study’s senior author, Yael Vodovotz, a professor of food science and technology at Ohio State.

The Center for Advanced Processing and Packaging Studies provided funding for the study.

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