A UK based technology startup, Polymateria, has developed a ground-breaking innovation that aims to tackle global plastic pollution. The company has come up with a technology that alters the properties of plastic to make it biodegradable and recyclable at the same time.
With the potential to revolutionise the fight against plastic waste globally, this ‘biotransformation’ technology is nothing but a proprietary additive that can break down plastics safely if they escape into the environment.
The startup, based at Imperial College, London, claims to be the first company in the world to offer such a fully biodegradable solution without creating micro plastics that harm the natural environment or interfere with recycling streams at scale.
Their time-controlled technology is focused on plastic packaging waste, such as takeaway containers, disposable cups and another packaging that isn’t usually recycled but often disposed of.
The additives help break down plastic polymers and turn the plastic into a wax that’s fully digested by microbes like natural bacteria and fungi. These can also be used to create a thin plastic film used for food storage or more rigid materials to make cups or drink pouches.
Also, the biodegradable products are labelled with a ‘recycle by’ date, to show consumers the timeframe to dispose of them responsibly before they start breaking down.
According to Niall Dunne, CEO of Polymateria, the plastic breaks down in as little as 226 days for polyethene-based products, and 336 days for polypropylene ones, leaving no microplastics behind.
“For too long, it has been assumed that biodegradable material cannot also be recycled. Our technology is changing perceptions. Products containing our technology should be recycled as a matter of priority, but any items escaping the system will return to nature at the right time without causing any harm,” he tells the Imperial College, London.
Verified by the British Standard Institution (BSI), this technology is now being adopted by several international brands across the world including in India.
According to Polymateria’s website, following 18-months of detailed testing and validation work, leading Indian brands including Godrej will be using its technology to make a range of plastic packaging applications biodegradable.
Recently, the startup also struck a deal with a supplier to 7-Eleven stores, South Plastic Industry Co, in Taiwan and also inked a deal of up to $100 million to license its technology to Formosa Plastics Corp, one of the world’s biggest petrochemical manufacturers.
Imperial College London
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)