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Plastic from waste vegetable matter.

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Cashew nuts – one of the great snack foods for beer lovers everywhere have always been acknowledged for their high oil content. But there’s more;  see below.  Original article; Engadget August 2010.

For more on ‘natural’ plastic see; Henry & Hemp. Henry’s Hemp Car Hemp Building Materials.

Henry Ford and Rudolf  Diesel Against Petrochemicals from 1941.

Engadget highlights a press release from NEC on its new bioplastic, which states that the cellulose and cardanol used in the plastics come from stems and nut shells that are abundant resources, discarded as byproducts from the agricultural industry. By perfecting the formula to make it suitable for electronics, the company feels it could decrease its oil footprint.

Their new plastic is reportedly twice as strong as PLA (corn-based plastic), twice as beat resistant, three times as water resistant, and can be molded in half the time. The company feels confident the plastic could appear in their products as quickly as 2013, once the formula and sourcing of materials is hammered down.

The recyclability of the plastic is not mentioned, however. PLA requires special recycling processes, and can’t be recycled alongside other plastics, which makes sorting it out and dealing with it at end of life an extra hassle. Will this new plastic be able to recycle alongside PLA? This is a big question to be answered before we can get too excited about it.

But it is promising that our gadgets can be created in part from existing plant waste, rather than oil or new crops. It seems to already be a step up from PLA.

PRESS RELEASE;

NEC Develops High Performance Bioplastic with a High Plant Ratio by Using Non-edible Plant Resources

— Advanced bioplastic from plant stems and cashew nut shells —

Tokyo, August 25, 2010 – NEC Corporation (NEC; TSE: 6701) announced today the development of a first-of-its-kind durable new biomass-based plastic (bioplastic) that is produced from non-edible plant resources. The bioplastic is created by bonding cellulose (*1), a main component of plant stems, with cardanol (*2), a primary component of cashew nut shells, which achieves a level of durability that is suitable for electronic equipment and boasts a high plant composition ratio of more than 70%.

The new bioplastic characteristics are as follows.

1. Composed of non-edible plant resources
As an alternative to petroleum-based components, cellulose is the plastic’s major ingredient. The cellulose, which is produced in large amounts by plants, including grass stems, etc., is modified by cardanol, an oil-like material that is extracted from cashew nut shells. Most of these stems and nut shells are abundant resources, which are often discarded byproducts of the agricultural process.

2. High plant component ratio
The use of cellulose and cardanol, both plant resources, as the plastic’s primary components produces a plastic that features a high plant component ratio of more than 70%. Current cellulose based plastics include large amounts of petroleum-based additives, which results in a low plant component ratio.

3. High durability well suited for electronics
After enhancing its reactivity, cardanol is chemically bonded with cellulose, which produces a durable thermo-plastic that is strong, heat resistant, water resistant and non-crystalline (short molding time), due to the bonded cardanol’s unique molecular structure consisting of flexible and rigid parts.

Comparison to existing bioplastics: polylactic acid resin (PLA) (*3) and cellulose acetate (CA) based resin
* Durability (strength & malleability): Twice the strength of existing PLA. Comparable to conventional CA resin
* Heat resistance (glass transition temperature): More than twice the resistance of PLA, approximately 1.3 times more than CA resin
* Water resistance: Comparable to PLA, approximately 3 times more than CA resin
* Molding time: Less than 50% of PLA. Comparable to conventional cellulose-based and petroleum-based plastics.

In recent years, bioplastics composed from plant resources gathered greater attention as an effective measure to reduce the depletion of petroleum resources and alleviate global warming. However, while current leading bioplastics, such as PLA, primarily use feed grains as a plant resource, the possibility of future food shortages has emphasized the importance of using non-edible plant resources to produce bioplastics.

Therefore, non-edible plant-based bioplastics have been developed using such resources as cellulose and castor oil (*4). These cellulose-based bioplastics have conventionally been utilized in stationery, toys and household goods. However, these modified celluloses require large amounts of petroleum-based additives such as plasticizers, which results in bioplastics with a low plant component ratio and poor durability, including heat resistance and water resistance.

A polyamide resin derived from castor oil, a non-edible plant resource is also being used in electronic parts, however, there is an inadequate supply of this plant resource to expand its use and its characteristics are unsuitable for use in a variety of electronics.

However, NEC’s newly developed bioplastic resolves each of these issues. Looking forward, the company will continue with research and development towards mass production of this bioplastic and improving its suitability for a wide range of electronic equipment within the 2013 fiscal year.

This newly developed bioplastic will be formally announced at The Chemical Society of Japan / Kanto Branch meeting at the University of Tsukuba on August 31, 2010.

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About pfiddle

Fiddle teacher - mostly Irish trad. Fiddle, mandolin and concertina. Eco-warrior, won E.U. Green Flower Award for Eco Accommodation. Also Irish (Gold) GHA. Green Hospitality Award. Mad keen on self-build - especially straw-bale and cob. 55 with a full head of (slightly) graying hair. No tattoos or piercings. Fond of animals - but legally so. Fond of food - I eat nothing else. Vegetarian by choice, Irish by the grace of birth, Munster by force of (rugby) arms.

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