Single-use hard plastics are all around us: utensils, party decorations and food containers, to name a few examples. These items pile up in landfills, and many biodegradable versions stick around for months, requiring industrial composting systems to fully degrade. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering have created a sturdy, lightweight material that disintegrates on-demand — and they made it from sugar and wood-derived powders.
“Amorphous Sugar Materials as Sustainable and Scalable Alternatives for Rigid, Short-Term-Use Products”
ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering
Corresponding author: Scott T. Phillips, Ph.D.
On-screen text: Single-use plastics pile up in landfills. Even biodegradable plastics can stick around for months if they’re not properly composted.
Sugar-like isomalt can create sturdy decorations, so maybe it could be a substitute for hard plastics too?
Scott Phillips’s team heats isomalt with wood-derived powders. They squeeze out the paste into small pellets. The pellets get molded into objects that are harder than some plastics, like PVC. Here, when a saucer made with the pellets gets smashed, it quickly breaks down in water.
The researchers say the new material could be used to make single-use utensils and other items that degrade on-demand.