From Science & Research as proteins, lipids and polymeric carbohydrates, into readily degradable feedstocks for the bacteria.” The ‘Waste 2 Gold‘ framework demands a multi-disciplinary approach, encompassing microbiology, bioprocess engineering, biomaterials chemistry, polymer engineering, and ecotoxicology. Advanced biomaterial engineering concepts also enhance these opportunities by taking the bioplastics from bacteria and integrating functional attributes, such as programmed degradation and biofunctional additives. The author of this article is leader of the Biomaterials Engineering Group and leads many of the bioplastic pro-duct developments at Scion. They are functionalising selected wastes, and mixing benign solid wastes from other sources (such as the horticultural, food processing and agricultural sectors), with renewableresourced-based plastics, and selected additives, to create a range of novel biopolymer products. These products include controlled-release fertilisers, biodegradable plant pots, panels, packaging materials, and other moulded plastic products. As future disposal options become more limited, these technologies will provide a viable alternative for not only reducing waste, but for utilising it as a valuable resource. Though the initial interest has been from commodity based product developments, we increasingly see greater interest in accessing functional attributes of particular pro-cessed or functionalised wastes in bioplastic products. This is leading to a range of advanced performance bioplastic product developments. Scion has taken this concept outside the lab to some leading New Zealand plastics processors and has also worked to directly involve those who generate much of New Zealand’s organic wastes. Scientists have conducted surveys to assess primary industry processing activities within New Zealand and to identify current waste production and disposal patterns. The surveys highlighted the availability of high-volume, good quality waste streams, with producers indicating a clear desire for better options to use this waste. This need led to the formation of a partnership between Scion and a number of major pulp and paper and horticultural producers and processors to explore opportunities for developing new products from these waste streams. This partnership exploits a ‘Waste 2 Gold‘ ‘hotspot’ based in the Bay of Plenty region, where significant volumes of the ideal raw materials are available to this programme. The fledgling regional initiative may be a model for extension into other sectors in New Zealand as scientists develop ways of making bio-derived plastics and biobased composites out of a range of organic wastes from kiwifruit to cow dung. “From a purely economic perspective, industrial wastes can no longer be considered ‘wastes’ but rather ‘untapped resources’. While reducing the amount of waste generated is the first priority, even the most efficient manufacturing processes create surplus materials. The future sustainability of industrial production depends on the smart utilisation of these residues,” Dr Stuthridge concludes. 30 bioplastics MAGAZINE [07/04] Vol. 2
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