BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - Australian chemical engineering researchers are working on two projects to develop biodegradable starch-based plastic products. Another team of researchers is developing plastic from sugar waste. A research team led by Michael Mackay, associate professor at the University of Queensland in Brisbane will use a three-year, A$1 million (US$726,600) Australian federal government grant to develop injection molding and film blowing grades of starch-based plastics.
Mackay said the project is aimed to develop different grades of starch-based plastics, including foam.
The team also will participate in a new Co-Operative Research Center for International Food Manufacture & Packaging Science, based in Melbourne, Australia.
The federal government will fund the research center with an A$16 million (US$11.6 million) grant over seven years.
The University of Queens-land team will develop starch-based plastics, which could eventually be alternatives to low-density polyethylene food packaging.
Mackay acknowledged that development of starch-based plastics is well advanced by several North American companies. The Australian research aims to create an export market for Southeast Asian fast-food and packaging industries, according to Mackay.
He said the powdered starch is derived from corn and wheat. Ingredients such as water and glycerin are added to plasticize the starch, which is then extruded.
The research also will concentrate on developing a final product that can be manufactured at a cost comparable to, or cheaper than, conventional plastics.
Mackay said a third project involves Genesearch Pty. Ltd., a biotechnology company based in Gold Coast, Australia. The company will study the production of biodegradeable plastic from sugar. Australia is the world's largest producer of raw sugar.