Evolutionary change for a revolutionary product

Saturday, 18 June, 2005

Over the next few years, industry is likely to see some evolutionary changes to the biodegradable plastic based on corn starch developed by Plantic Technologies.

The Commonwealth government has recently awarded the company an R&D Start Grant of $1.73 million to develop second-generation products and a Food Innovation Grant of $842,000 to improve water resistance.

To date, Plantic Technologies has con-centrated on developing and commercialising its range of trays for packaging dry goods such as biscuits and chocolates.

Around the world, companies such as Freedom Foods and Cadbury Schweppes are using the biodegradable trays. Locally, the Byron Bay Cookie Company has in-troduced them for its cafe cookies. Since the company currently ships more than 600,000 trays of cookies a year around Australia and overseas, the new trays will significantly reduce the environmental impact associated with distributing the products.

While traditional, petrochemical-based plastics can take thousands of years to degrade, the Plantic tray fully decomposes in months when composted and dissolves in minutes when immersed in water. However, the problem remains that the biodegradable trays are often wrapped with traditional plastics.

The three-year R&D Start grant will allow Plantic Technologies to develop a high-performance biodegradable film for use as plastic overwrap. The three-year $842,000 Food Innovation Grant will allow Plantic and shareholder and corn-starch-supplier, Penford Australia to develop a second-generation product that is more resistant to moisture and extend the Plantic range beyond dry goods packaging.

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