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A British firm is trying to developing bioplastics using lignin, a byproduct in huge quantities from wood pulp and paper operations.
Biome Bioplastics Ltd. is striving to make a bioplastic entirely free of petroleum chemicals. Lignin is a complex hydrocarbon found in plant cell walls and is a waste stream from pulp and paper. Biome of Southampton, England, is looking at lignin as a replacement for aromatic chemicals in plastics.
Key to its commercial success is controlling the lignin breakdown process to get the most useful chemicals out of the brown residue. Early work shows bacteria and enzymes in termites’ stomachs could provide clues.
Biome is work with the University of Warwick on the project. Britain’s Technology Strategy Board grant of 150,000 pounds ($230,000) is helping with the research. Biome already supplies a range of bioplastics for film, extrusion and coating.
“The availability of a high performance polymer manufactured economically from renewable sources would considerably increase the market,” noted Biome CEO Paul Mines in a news release.
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