Researchers create bioplastics from waste fryer oil

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In Slovakia, researchers from the Slovak Technical University are reporting that a new patent application for second-generation bioplastics has been submitted to the Patent Office.

“Second-generation bioplastics exhibit additional environmental bonuses. Used frying oil, hazardous waste produced in large quantities all over the world, is a source of polyhydroxybutyrate, a bio-plastic material which degrades in industrial compost conditions at the temperatures of 50  or more, as well as in domestic compost conditions at 20-30 ℃. Its degradation in common soil and in sea water is currently being investigated. This may be a significant contribution to reducing non-degradable plastic waste in the densely polluted seas”, says Professor Pavel Alexy of the STU Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology in Bratislava.

Professor Alexy explains that second-generation bioplastics are made by using frying oil, the hazardous waste produced in large quantities all over the world that shows additional environmental bonuses. Used frying oil is a source of polyhydroxybutyrate, a bio-plastic material that degrades in industrial compost conditions at the temperatures of 50 Celsius or more, as well as in domestic compost conditions at 20-30 ℃. Investigations are in progress for its degradation in common soil and in sea water. Professor Alexy adds that this may be a significant contribution to reducing non-degradable plastic waste in the densely polluted seas. Professor Alexy is currently intensively involved to cooperate with others in the development of the technology for processing waste oils to polyhydroxybutyrate.

By contrast, first-generation bioplastics consist of two components: polylactic acid made of starch, and polyhydroxybutyrate, a biomaterial produced by bacteria. What the bacteria need as a nutrient is just sugar, either that made of sugar cane, or just whey, i.e. the waste of no practical use, generated in the production of dairy products. Such bioplastics are protected as a utility model in the Slovak Republic; a patent application has been filed and the patent has raised interest in Europe and several Asian countries. The material bears the brand “nonoilen”, which means “not made of oil”.

Having collaborated mainly with the Slovak Academy of Sciences during the development of the first-generation bioplastics, Professor Alexy currently intensively cooperates with the scientists of the Technical University of Brno and a commercial company, developing the technology for processing waste oils to polyhydroxybutyrate.

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