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Reducing the Pressure on Food Crops with Algae-Based Biopolymers

SpecialChem / Sep 28, 2010

Bioplastics industry is currently highly dependant on renewable material such as starches from corn, tapioca, wheat and potatoes for the manufacture of bio-based resins, thereby competing with food uses. A solution to this problem has been found in the form of algae-based biopolymers. Algae have some main potential advantages related to the growing speed and the cultivation conditions. They can rapidly grow, producing fifteen times more vegetable oil per hectare than other feedstocks and can be cultivated in seawater, saving fertile land and fresh water for food cultivation. Marine algae only require sunlight, seawater, carbon dioxide and nutrients to grow converting overabundant carbon dioxide into useful biomass.

Alginic acid and alginate polymer derivatives are well-known as hydroswelling, gelling and thickening additives but they also have uses as material for dental impression and molding for soft or delicate objects or, in combination with other polymers, for specific applications. The true innovative breakthrough can come from algae-based plastic grades, the ethanol and other alcohol routes leading to biopolyethylene, bio-PVC or bio-EVA.

Cereplast, Inc. has announced that its plan to develop a new family of algae-based resins is progressing well and that the Company expects to offer the first grade of for commercial use by the end of the year. Also, major companies such as Dow, Chevron, Shell, BP, Exxon are collaborating with research centres, state organizations and small businesses to develop algal raw materials for bioplastics and biofuels production.

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