Polymateria has developed a method which allows a cost-effective route to producing plastic products which are 100% biodegradable, while releasing zero toxins in decomposition. This project has been supported by Imperial College London with the eye to end plastic pollution globally. The first stage to enabling plastic to biodegrade involves using prodegradant additives in production, which support a predetermined shelf-life. This is combined with oxidising small parts of the polymer, and so weakening it in the initial stages of plastic production. By this process, plastic is converted back to its basic compounds of carbon dioxide, water and biomass after six months.
The design flaw of plastic - its long life as a toxic pollutant - has been broken by Polymateria. Can we now look forward to all the functionality of plastic without the long-term devastation? With two minor tweaks in production, the timely issues facing the packaging and plastic industries could be answered. Scale will depend on support from consumers and regulators to incentivise industry take-up. It does not solve the problem of a throwaway society or move us towards a circular economy, but could help to minimise the impact of plastic waste on fragile ecosystems.