Degrading plastics to reduce waste

Plastic bags that degrade in as little as 55 days after use can now be made using the first 100% degradable polyethene.

The material, called SPI-TEK, could help to increase the capacity of landfill sites by as much as 20-30% by degrading rapidly and allowing other organic materials to decompose. The material has exactly the same mechanical properties as traditional polyethene but decomposes in a maximum of five years, compared to 100 years.

SPI-TEK, produced by Symphony Environmental, contains up to 3% of a non-toxic Degradable Compostable Plastic (DCP) additives that acts as a catalyst to cause the carbon bonds in the polyethene to be broken. Microorganisms in the soil and water can then digest the material, converting it into harmless water and carbon dioxide. Refuse sacks made of SPI-TEK are already on the market and use of the material for domestic products is expected to increase.

In a separate development, Bayer are currently testing a new polyester that is also 100% degradable that is suitable for a number of industrial processes such as injection moulding and film blowing. This means the material will be suitable for use in industrial production for the agriculture and the food sector industries.

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