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Organic additive creates value for landfill plastic

Biogone

Biogone, a Melbourne based plastic technology company, has a plastic additive which promises to speed up biodegradation of plastic, Food & Beverage Industry News reports.

Over the past five years, the world, including Australia, has seen rising demand in brands and consumers looking for more eco-friendly and plastic smart packaging to combat packaging waste.

Biogone’s organic additives to its plastic production presents a string of benefits for the food and beverage industry which addresses these concerns.

Co-founders John Mancarella and Ross Headifen created Australia’s first landfill biodegradable plastic products to reduce the mountains of plastic waste accumulating in landfills across the country.

Both believe if single-use plastics must be used, then they should be made to be recyclable in line with the 2025 National Packaging Targets and biodegrade where they will be disposed of – which most likely would be in a landfill.

It’s hoped this can act as a backstop measure for when plastic isn’t recycled.

Headifen told Food & Beverage Industry News the idea first came to him while he was volunteering in Tanzania with his wife.

Seeing first-hand the plastics issues presented in the African nation, prompted Headifen to join forces with Mancarella to create Biogone landfill biodegradable plastics..

“We started doing some research and came across this technology out of the US and I told John I had an idea for a company where we can still sell all the products, we used to but with better and biodegradable plastic which is better for our customer base,” he said.

“We had a customer base that was already keen for something better and that is when we started FieldTech Solutions.”

 

For all intents and purposes, Biogone plastic has the same strength, colour, heat performance as standard plastic the difference is when you throw it away it will be able to biodegrade.

“Some people got it right away and others were hesitant.”

The Biogone technology is not a chemical but a biological process.

It uses an organic additive which is a distinctive food source for microbes, which is then mixed in with the raw plastic material at product formation time.

The inert additive lays alongside the polymer chains and has no impact on them. The plastic retains all its original mechanical properties, such as strength, colour, impermeability, shelf life and recyclability.

The big difference between a Biogone plastic and a conventional plastic becomes apparent when the plastic is disposed to landfill. There, the naturally occurring microbes seek out the food and start to digest it.

No air or sunlight is required which means the biodegradation can occur at all locations in a landfill. The enzymes the microbes secrete in that process then break the surface polymer chains down so the microbes can digest them too.

Plastic is one of the most inert materials around and so this process is still slow compared to a piece of paper biodegrading away, but at approximately 90+ per cent faster than conventional plastic, this is where the Biogone technology offers the most pronounced impact.

The byproduct of this biological break down is a humus like sludge, that is also an excellent soil conditioner, and a biogas carbon dioxide (aerobic conditions) or methane (anaerobic conditions).

Over the next 50 years the landfill could be quite fertile with all the organic stuff going in there, it will help condition the soil. But a bigger factor at that stage will be the biogas that is given off.

“Landfills are capturing methane and combusting it to generate electricity. You’re getting the energy out of the embodied plastic back. It’s virtually free energy as opposed to burning coal to produce energy,” said Mancarella.

That’s a big factor, to recover methane energy and use it to make power. Landfills have a life of 50 years or so which is a long-term contract to supply gas, the beauty of ours is it’s not a fast degradation, like an apple core, it’s ten times faster than the conventional plastic.

“So, if conventional plastic takes 300 years, we are taking 20 to 30 years to biodegrade which creates a slow feed of methane through the landfills they have more supply instead of short-term bursts.”

With a Biogone plastic, the accelerated biodegradation rate means the methane gas is given off over a much shorter time. This allows the gas to be captured within the lifetime during which a landfill is actively managed.

This gas can then be used to generate electricity, displacing the need for electricity produced by fossil fuels, creating another positive impact on the environment.

The new additive would also allow more methane extraction from landfill

Biogone’s organic additive is inert and does not change the properties of the plastic for any product design considerations and means the product manufacturers can use the additive to make biodegradable versions of their products without having to change any of their machinery.

Currently, upwards of 85 per cent of plastic is ending up in landfill and Mancarella said this solution was a critical step to take until the world was able to solve the plastics problem once and for all.

Addressing the plastic packaging issue, the Federal government has introduced the National Plastic Plan to overhaul plastic packaging needs, in this case to be reused, recycled, recovered and redesigned.

Part of the plan is the 2025 National Packaging Target – where all packaging needs to be 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable.

This means it’s a critical time for businesses regardless of size, to start thinking now about their packaging needs so they can start planning and switching to packaging that will meet government standards.

Biogone aims to help businesses make the switch, offering a wide range of cost-effective landfill-biodegradable and home compostable packaging and shipping materials.

Having the Biogone additive in plastic allows it to be recycled with other soft plastics when practical and provides a backstop to allow it to biodegrade in a landfill if it ends up in one, circulating its embodied energy, if the plastic is discarded.

Biogone believes they have the best solution until we advance the plastic recycling industry and move towards a more complete circular economy.

The Biogone product range includes landfill biodegradable plastic products for the food industry, including zip lock bags, bin liners, aprons, gloves, produce bags and cling wrap.

In addition, Biogone offers landfill biodegradable packing, shipping and warehouse products including machine stretch wrap, bubble wrap, pallet strapping, mailing satchels, packing tape and much more.

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