Researchers turn to sustainable product sourcing for green plastics

Sustainable product sourcing results in innovations that lead to more efficient alternatives to common goods and materials. A grant by the Environmental Protection Agency is helping small-business manufacturing in development of a new kind of plastic that may reduce impact on the environment.

The EPA gave GVD Corporation $300,000 towards research for a more sustainable form of plastic, the Cambridge Chronicle reported. Specializing in coating services for a variety of industries, GVD was one of 25 companies that were initially granted $80,000 by the EPA's Small Business Innovation Research program. Along with seven other companies, it went on to receive its most recent grant during Phase II to help prepare its mold release coatings for commercial sale. These mold release agents can be used for foam, tires, automotive parts and medical products.

"We at GVD are very conscious of the environmental impact attributed to conventional mold release technologies," the GVD press release said. "Most commercial mold release agents make use of organic solvents that vaporize during drying, creating a significant air quality impact."

Using green technology,  GVD Chief Technology Officer Shannan O'Shaughnessy said the company uses a process that forms plastic on the surface itself, which uses less energy compared to the processes that include wet applied release agents.

"We have a novel way of making Teflon-like coatings that doesn't require use of environmentally unfriendly materials," O'Shaughnessy said.

Researchers turn fats, oils into plastic materials

In another step towards sustainability for the industry, two researchers are studying how to turn animal fat and vegetable oil into plastic, according to Plastics News. Before this research, raw materials for plastics were usually sourced from petroleum feedstocks.

"The increased demand for sustainable development, together with the ever fluctuating cost of petroleum-based raw materials, makes the development of new processes that provide more economical and greener alternatives to conventional methods in forming base feedstocks for commercial polymers imperative," the study's introduction stated.

Using fats and oils , Maria Muro-Small and Douglas Neckers discovered a method to irradiate these raw material that allows them to be transformed into glycerol byproducts that will eventually be converted into plastic. They tested different samples including olive oil, canola oil and used cooking oil from deep fryers.

Their findings were published in Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering by the American Chemical Society. Neckers said experiments such as these are crucial because raw materials for plastics are in short supply while costs for petroleum-based feedstocks continue to climb.

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