Friday, November 07, 2008

Bioplastics from Sugarcane

The Cooperative Research Centre for Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology (CRC SIIB) today announced strong progress in providing new and diverse bioproduct opportunities for the Australian sugar industry in their 2007/08 Annual Report released in late October, 2008.

The CRC SIIB 2007/08 achievements include:
- together with its American-based member company Metabolix, the CRC SIIB reported the production of sugarcane containing 3.5% PHA (polyhydroxy alkanoate – a new class of biodegradable plastics). The CRC SIIB has made significant progress in producing bioplastics in sugarcane plants that can be used for a wide range of commercial applications and confirming that sugarcane is a preferred feedstock (over corn and sugar beet) for the production of bioproducts.

The chief executive of the CRC SIIB, Dr Peter Twine says he is now looking for investors to turn the research into a viable business venture. He hopes biodegradable plastic extracted from sugar cane will be used to produce a multitude of products in around five years time. "It could be used for any form of plastic where you want to get rid of it at the end of the day," he said. "Mulching in agriculture, mobile phone cases, beer keg tops. It can be injection-moulded or it can be created into sheet plastic."

Sugarcane has high biomass yields, significantly greater than competitive crops, which then offers a major cost advantage to sugarcane with high bioplastics yields. Combine that with other uses for sugarcane and maybe Australian biotechnology has a real winner. There is likely to be greater returns from this technology rather than the current simplistic process of producing ethanol from sugarcane.

Some additional detail is on the CRC website

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