Malaga company creates bioplastics that decompose in seawater

Malaga company creates bioplastics that decompose in seawater. image: JohnnyMrNinja

Malaga company creates bioplastics that decompose in seawater

Researchers from the Institute of Horticulture Subtropical and Mediterranean La Mayora in the Malaga municipality of Algarrobo, in Andalucia, have created bioplastics that decompose after one month in seawater. These products are made from the remains and skins of tomatoes and have similar properties to materials that are used to wrap and protect commercial packages.

Plastics derived from petroleum have excellent properties for food packaging, but take 450 years to degrade. As a result, when they enter the oceans they accumulate and cause problems for ocean flora and fauna. These scientists set out with the objective of creating an alternative to those plastics.

Jose Alejandro Heredia, the IHSM researcher, works with cellulose to achieve the ideal bioplastic. It is capable of being modified with robust antibacterial and antioxidant bioactive substances. This product has many properties for food packaging, and also maximizes its ease of degradation. Cellulose is extracted in a purified form from the leaves, stems and skin of tomatoes that are discarded in the canning industry after making tomato sauces, or ketchup.

As Heredia explained to Efe, in this way, a robust and transparent film is created with multiple applications. These bioplastics can be waterproof, fluorescent, pearly, or of different colours and shades, depending on their light exposure. They can also be used in a more playful way to create accessories such as buttons or decorative ornaments that imitate the materials with which they are usually made.

This “smart packaging” is another of the revolutions proposing these bioplastics. Once you protect a food, if the plastic is no longer its initial color, it means that it has absorbed water, and is losing its structure. It is then starting to lose antioxidant properties and ceases to be useful.

According to the researcher, it acts as a kind of “sensor” to give us a clue, or show us signs that a material covering a food product is beginning to deteriorate. In the medium term, this can affect the food that it is protecting.

The researcher uses something called ‘green chemistry’

Another of the main applications that these bioplastics can be used for is to coat the inside of a can. To create this, a ‘very sustainable’ protocol is used, which the scientist calls ‘green chemistry’.

Heredia assures that once the production process of this bioplastic has been carried out, it has been proven that it is “as good” as the current commercial oil derivatives. They allegedly make metal “resist corrosion very well, and do not migrate to the food”.

However, the researcher regrets, its commercial application is a long way off, as the plastics industry needs to be able to use the same machinery to make this change economically viable. If this was to ever happen then it would create a revolution for the environment and food sustainability, as reported by


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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]


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