Edible Plastic Could Change Pollution as We Know It
When John Wesley Hyatt invented the original synthetic polymer (plastic) in 1869, it was considered an earth-shattering accomplishment. For the first time ever, a manufactured product was not plagued by the constraints of naturally available materials like bone, stone, metal, and wood. It was during this time that plastic was also touted as the savior of endangered animals like tortoises and elephants.
Unfortunately, the dream that plastic could protect the natural world from humanity slowly turned into a nightmare. Today, it’s seen as a monster out destroy the planet — which is exactly why a new material by crafting plastics! studio (CPS) seems perfectly poised to save the day.
CPS’ amazing bioplastic is made from three simple ingredients: sugar, cornstarch, and recycled cooking oil. The designers claim that their material, called “Nuatan,” could ultimately replace “all the packaging we know.”
First introduced at a London Design Festival exhibition, Nuatan is being touted as much stronger and more resilient than existing bioplastics, with a chemical structure that safely breaks down when consumed, mulched, or composted. CPS Designer Vlasta Kubušová confirmed that once Nuatan has been sanctioned with a food-safety credential, it could be used for food and drink packaging, making its utilization potential nearly unlimited.
How Nuatan Came About
Material scientists at the Slovak University of Technology spent six years researching and refining the Nuatan formula. Nuatan is a combination of two diverse biopolymers, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) and polylactic acid (PLA). The former is created by microorganisms when they metabolize corn starch, while the latter is a natural plastic made from corn starch.
After conducting extensive experiments on the bioplastic, the researchers determined that Nuatan could be used in several different fields, including (but not limited to) 3D printing, injection molding, and the creation of conventional blow-formed plastic. It’s also been reported to reliably hold in temperatures exceeding 212° Fahrenheit (100° Celsius) and maintain its structural integrity for up to 15 years.
These properties make Nuatan the perfect replacement for all the plastic products out there that are currently under fire for being harmful to the environment, including straws, grocery bags, and water bottles.
But Wait, There’s More!
Not only can fish and other water creatures safely consume Nuatan, but so can humans. Since it contains no carbon-based raw materials (like most other plastics do), it’s virtually harmless to living things, degrading inside the body upon consumption. Nuatan’s biodegradability also makes it conducive to industrial composting.
So What’s the Hold Up?
Money. Since it’s only used in a select number of products, the production costs are pretty high. That’s why CPS designers are actively searching for collaborators and investors to assist in product development and boost demand for Nuatan.
Kubušová explains: “We are hoping to find collaborators who want to include it in the right products, and not combine it with other materials, so it’s a mono-material. If we can find the right collaborators, it can change things a lot.”
CPS introduced Nuatan’s wonders by using it to produce luxury products, which are typically less influenced by raw material costs. Two years ago, the company created eyeglasses whose frames were colored using natural pigments like turmeric, indigo, and coffee waste.
Kubušová is hopeful. “We started with value-added products where the material price doesn’t make too much difference,” he says. “We hope that these products can create bigger demand so the price can come down.”