A company based in Morelia, Michoacan, is making sustainable, biodegradable plastic out of agro-industrial waste, Forbes reports.
Called BIOFASE, the business uses avocado pits to create cutlery and straws containing 70 percent biomass content. The products are extra strong, suitable for hot and cold food, and according to the brand, are the first to be made from fully renewable and sustainable sources.
Mexico produces 300,000 pounds of avocados, or roughly 50 percent of the world’s supply. “Avocado seeds pile up in Mexico like nowhere else in the world, and most end up being burned at landfill sites,” NowScience explains. BIOFASE uses 15 tonnes of avocado seeds a day to tap into the global market for bioplastic which is set to be worth $5.8 billion by 2021, according to Bioplastics News.
The avocado-derived plastic technology began being developed in 2012 by Scott Mungía, who was studying chemical engineering at the time and looking for ways to combat plastic pollution. He tested the properties of raw materials like mango and the seeds of mamey sapote, a creamy and sweet fruit native to Mexico.
Once deciding on avocado as the key ingredient, Mungía spent a year and a half looking for ways to extract a molecular compound from the avocado pit and obtain a biopolymer, which could then be molded into various shapes.
The final cutlery and straw products biodegrade after 240 days of being buried in the ground or exposed to the elements, NowScience says. In contrast, plastic bottles can take more than 450 years to decompose whilst plastic bags can take 10 to 1,000 years to break down.
With a team of 14 employees, BIOFASE produces 130 tons of biodegradable plastic products in its Morelia plant every month. In November, the company plans to open a plant with a capacity of 700 tons a month.
Prior to BIOFASE, all biopolymer products had to be imported from other countries into Mexico, the company writes on its website, and these imported products are “at least twice as expensive” as BIOFASE’s. Taking the patented technology further, BIOFASE exports 80 percent of its products to the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Columbia, and Perú, helping to tackle plastic waste around the globe.
What about the fine print?
Biofase’s products are only produced using 60% biopolymers from the avocado seeds and the other 40% are what they call unnamed “synthetic organic compounds”, meaning they use some compounds which are used to increase strength, taking them longer to degrade. They market their products as being able to degrade in 240 days, however, this number highly depends on several environmental conditions such as heat, moisture, and microorganisms present at the end of its use. This means that if their conditions are not optimal for their degradation, then they might take much longer to disintegrate. Leaving more time for these bioplastics to travel to the ocean, resulting in our current plastic pollution problem.
You can purchase BIOFASE’s avocado cutlery and straws online.