Turning cotton trash into bioplastic
One of leading materials research institutes in Australia, Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) team at Deakin University developed a method to turn cotton gin trash generated in a manufacturing process into useful bioplastics.
According to the university, about 29 million tonnes of cotton lint is grown and produced each year in the world, and about a third of that are eventually landfilled or burned as trash. Researchers recover the seeds, stems, short fibers and other by-products left behind from the separating process of these cotton gin trash, i.e. cotton lint, to produce organic polymers. Then they succeeded in producing a bioplastic film. The obtained material has a variety of applications, such as a bale wrap, fertilizer and cotton seed packaging.
According to Dr Maryam Naebe, who led the research, “compared to synthetic plastics, our bioplastic is cheaper to produce at a mass scale and doesn’t include toxic chemicals. It can biodegrade and turn into soil, which can then be repurposed again such as being used to grow cotton. Turning cotton gin trash into something of commercial value will give cotton growers and farmers an additional income stream.”
The team is currently conducting similar research using other organic waste and fibrous plant materials such as lemongrass, hemp, almond shells, wheat straw, wood saw dust and wood shavings. “Our mission at IFM is to redesign raw materials with innovative natural materials, crossing the boundaries of science,” said Dr. Naebe. “And in order to raise living standards across the globe, a circular economy has to be realized.”