Organic additive to help plastic biodegrade 90+% faster to generate waste-to-energy
Local Melbourne-based business, Biogone, is leading plastic technology in Australia with an organic additive to help plastic biodegrade approximately 90+% faster than conventional plastics when it’s disposed to a modern landfill.
Unlike the degradable chemical additive that causes the plastic to break up into microplastics in air and sunlight, their technology is not a chemical but a biological process. It is using an organic additive which is a special food source for microbes. It is 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, waterproofness, shelf life and recyclability.
However, the big difference between Biogone plastic and conventional plastic becomes apparent when the plastic is disposed to a microbe rich landfill. There, the naturally occurring microbes seek out the food and start to digest it. No air or sunlight is required which means biodegradation can occur at all locations in a landfill. The enzymes the microbes secrete in that process break the surface polymer chains down so the microbes can then 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 90+% faster, this is where the technology offers the most pronounced impact. The byproducts of this biological break down are a humus like sludge, that is an excellent soil conditioner, and a biogas carbon dioxide (aerobic conditions) or methane (anaerobic conditions). Conventional plastic will take many hundreds of years to break down, all the while, it is very slowly releasing the biogas to the atmosphere.
With 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.
Biogone’s unique organic additive is inert and added in a very small amount. It 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.
Also, this means the plastic is fully mainstream recyclable and has the same recyclable properties as conventional plastics. The other features of Biogone’s landfill-biodegradable plastic include:
- Strong and durable like conventional plastics.
- Have a food-grade rating.
- Biodegrade to a humus-like material (organic matter) which is a natural plant fertiliser and a biogas.
- Does not fragment to microplastics.
The entire Biogone product range is highly functional and has been handpicked from worldwide sources to offer the best landfill-biodegradable packaging and shipping materials in the market.
According to Dr Ross Headifen, co-founder of Biogone, “With each product we create, we are aiming to reduce the plastic build-up in landfills. Incorporating Biogone landfill-biodegradable technology is like an insurance policy that will allow the plastic to biodegrade away when it is eventually disposed to a landfill and the waste can be converted to energy.”
Unlike metal, plastic cannot be mechanically recycled time and time again. After the plastic has been recycled two to three times, its properties are so compromised it needs to be blended with virgin material or discarded.
The current rate of plastic recycling in Australia is approximately 13%, which means more than 85% is ending up in landfill and generating plastic waste. The 2025 National Packaging Targets for plastic are aimed at significantly increasing this recycling rate. These targets will require significant industry changes and substantial new infrastructure to collect and reprocess the used plastic. All of these factors mean there is still going to be a lot of plastic waste for many years to come until we have a complete and functional circular economy. Having the Biogone additive goes that one step further, allowing them to be recycled when practical, and it also provides a backstop to allow them to biodegrade away when disposed to a landfill circulating its embodied energy.
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