Tackling the issue of single-use plastic, Denxybel Montinola, a Filipino scientist, has developed a bioplastic made from algae and mango waste. Its advantage? It dissolves in water.
This bioplastic completely dissolves in water after only 10 minutes and doesn’t produce any toxic residues.
Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic get dumped into the oceans and do untold damage. And more than half comes from five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam according to a NGO Ocean Conservancy report. "Right now, we don’t have a good recycling system in the Philippines. And people are still using single-use plastic. It’s a crying shame," laments Denxybel Montinola.
In August 2019, the scientist, who recently graduated from University of San Carlos in the Philippines, unveiled a new bioplastic composed of a mixture of algae and mango peelings. Specifically, the material consists of carrageenan - a gelling substance - and pectin, which has the property of holding plant tissue together.
Unlike synthetic plastics that degrade to become the microplastic that pollutes our water and soils, the bioplastic invented by Denxybel Montinola completely dissolves in water after only 10 minutes and doesn’t produce any toxic residues. With this new invention the Philippines could drastically reduce its pollution from single-use plastics, and create a new circular economy.
Recovering mango waste
But why use mango? With 825, 676 metric tons produced a year, the Philippines ranks ninth among countries producing fresh mangoes and mango products (dried mangoes, flavored candies, etc.). So it’s no surprise that waste production has exploded in the fruit processing plants. But a godsend for Denxybel Montinola.
The scientist sees this as an easily accessible and inexpensive resource for making his bioplastic. In the Philippine’s Cebu Daily News, he says that the material obtained is "resistant and flexible and mimics the mechanical strength of plastic". Another advantage is that the mixture of pectin and carrageenan - in different proportions - can also be used to produce collagen. Applied to the skin, it could "prevent viral infections or control local bleeding," he says.
Next step? Continue his research to improve the quality of this bioplastic. "I want to extend its life, for example to a week or a month.” And perhaps even find new applications for his innovation and end the use of synthetic plastic…
CREDITS: Main picture Noemie Rosset / Veolia