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Students develop biodegradable oats-based packaging

Two students from the Technological University of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca (UTVCO) have developed a biodegradable polymer out of oat starch that could replace plastic packaging.

Engineering students Esbeydhy Oyuky Yescas and Marlen Hernández have developed a product they call Bioplastic, a biopolymer that begins to degrade after just four months, in comparison to as much as 10 years for commonly used plastics.

The product’s characteristics allow for the conservation of the physical, chemical and other properties — like taste and smell — of packaged goods.

The students’ product also has antimicrobial properties that give it the added commercial benefit of doubling the shelf life of certain perishable goods.

“Besides naturally preserving products, our project is environmentally friendly, as once disposed of it is 100% biodegradable,” Yescas told the news agency Conacyt Prensa.

Hernández added that by developing biopolymers their hope is to curb the massive production of environmentally harmful synthetic polymers.

The two estimate they could reduce the use of synthetic polymers in the city of Oaxaca by 5% through the use of their product, which was developed under the tutelage of professor Javier Daniel Ramírez Anaya.

According to data furnished by the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change, discarded plastic represents 11% of all trash in Mexico, of which only 12% is properly disposed of.

Another positive aspect of Bioplastic is that it uses oat grains and stimulates the local production of the cereal, added Hernández.

Yescas and Hernández hope their product can help fuel the economic, social and environmental sectors of the state of Oaxaca.

In November the two students won a national innovation contest designed to encourage the development of such projects and put them in touch with sources of funding.

Source: Conacyt Prensa (sp)

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