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Polish inventor and entrepreneur Jerzy Wysocki

Polish company manufactures edible plates to reduce plastic consumption

European Union has decided to ban all sorts of plastic utensils, cutlery from 2021. If you are wondering about the possible alternatives, you should know about the biodegradable plate that can also be eaten. Eaten? Yeah, you read it right.

Polish entrepreneur and inventor Jerzy Wysocki invented a biodegradable plate nearly 15 years ago which can also be consumed. Today, Biotrem manufactures almost 15 million such plates per year. Standing in the Biotrem production unit in Zambrow, northeast Poland, Wysocki says that a pork chop will certainly taste better in his wheat bran plate than on plastic.

Due to the ban, the production of these plates will certainly be skyrocketed. The plate itself does not contain many flavours. It will remind you something similar to dry flakes of cereal.

The idea for this kind of tableware came to Wysocki when he was looking for ways to use the leftovers from the flour production which took up a huge amount of space. He is also concerned about the increasing quantity of wastes which are polluting the oceans thus destroying the marine life. For manufacturing these plates, only wheat bran is used. It is then compressed at a very specific pressure and temperature with the help of a machine customized only for this use.

CEO of Biotrem, Malgorzata Then acknowledges the fact that these plates are certainly more expensive than the plastic products as they cost 17 US cents a piece, added with 20% for exports. However, for the cheap price of plastic, we have been compromising on environmental degradation and aquatic pollution for a long time.

The company’s first clients were those organisations who were conscious of the environmental damages caused by plastic and the hotel chains, restaurants who wanted to come up with something unique in their offerings. However, now due to the decisions taken by the European Union, companies ignorant about the environment are also paying extra attention.

Biotrem currently distributes the plates in several continents such as Europe, Asia, North America. The taste of the plates is even liked by the earthworms. Increase in the distribution would also mean a decrease in the prices. And on top, it would also be possible to use the same technology for making plates out of corn, barley, oats etc.

Wysocki says that although these numbers are not very high, they are big enough to remain positive for the future. Biotrem is considering the production of edible boxes for takeaway meals. Its research is at an advanced level, however, some changes are needed to make it more resistant to heat and fluids.

Besides Biotrem, scientists at the Gdansk University of Technology have come up with a way to manufacture cutlery from potato starch. They have been also tested on aquatic creatures and they can be easily consumed by these organisms.


Plastic Pollution in Ghana

Scientists develop a new variety of completely recyclable plastic for the first time

Scientists have always tried to make sure that plastics do not get dumped in the landfills after their use. Some plastics take too long to recycle which limits their reuse in several new items. However, a different kind of plastic may change this situation.

Plastics are so widely used due to their very less price, manufacturing ease and their resistance to water. The first completely synthetic plastic, bakelite was invented in 1907 by Leo Baekeland. He also coined the term ‘plastics’. The rate of slow decomposition of the plastics has led to environmental concerns.

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, United Nations Department of Energy have created a design for a completely different kind of plastic which can be broken and again built having the simplicity of a LEGO brick. The study has been published in Nature Chemistry.

According to scientist Peter Christensen, the maximum number of plastics were not made to be recycled. However, researchers have found a new technique in which the assembling of plastics is done taking the consideration of recycling at a molecular level.

Plastics are repeating chains of monomers. Monomers are the compounds which are derived from substances such as petroleum. Plastics are suitable for a wide variety of use from furniture, packaging items to straws, bags. Some plastics can be recycled easily as compared to others. Polyethylene terephthalate drinking bottles can be easily recycled but we cannot recycle plastic toys or utensils so easily.

Scientists have made some progress in the redesign of thermosetting plastics so that they can be recycled. But in order to really solve the problems with plastics, the process has to be made simpler.

The plastic developed by the Berkeley Lab can satisfy these conditions. The building block of the plastic is the monomer named as diketoenamine. This compound is created from triketone and amine. Condensation of the units results in the formation of PDK or polydiketoenamine. The interesting fact is that the bonds can be easily removed by soaking it in an acid bath for 12 hours.

Brett Helms, the team leader remarked that normal bonds of regular plastics are replaced by reversible ones which allow recycling very easily. Since the polymers can be broken down so easily, the core units of the plastics can be separated from the additives repeatedly in a closed cycle.

The recovery process has been tested repeatedly by contaminating PDK and the acidic solution with substances such as fibreglass. However, this did not impact it significantly.

Although further tests are needed for checking the suitability of PDK in various uses, the future indeed looks positive.