Furan based Bio Plastic

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Wednesday, June 14th, 2017
Daejeon Jeonmin Middle School Eugene Jeong

Eugene Jeong (Daejeon Jeonmin Middle School)

These days, plastics have become a really important material in our world. However, a lot of pollution is caused by plastic, and it has been a very important global problem to tackle. Why is plastic so bad for the environment? Generally, plastic takes thousands of years to biodegrade, and it doesn’t decompose.

Also, if we burn all the plastic we don’t use, the gas from it is very toxic from all of the pollutant substances. In order to overcome some of these problems, there are many bio plastics that can be used in place of regular plastic, and we should start using these plastics to reduce the pollution even a little bit. In particular, I’m going to introduce a furan-based bio-plastic that was developed by KAIST’s biomolecular Engineering professor Park O Ok’s team and LOTTE Chemical.

Although in the past there have been many kinds of bio-plastics, people didn’t use them a lot. Why they didn’t use them? First, let’s look for the reasons people use plastics. Regular plastic is cheap, easy to process, and durable. But compared to regular plastic, bio-plastic’s physical characteristics and its machinability are not as good. Also, because of the burden of the development costs, bio-plastic’s applications have been delayed. One of the reasons that people don’t use bio-plastic is that they are expensive and not efficient. Another reason people is that they don’t know how good the bio-plastics are for the environment.

The most important characteristics of furan-based polyester show not only the high elongations at break, but also improved Izod impact strengths compared to that of pure poly. Moreover, the furan bio-plastic has higher O2 barrier properties and lower acetaldehyde content than PET bottles.

According to an email correspondence from Dr. Hong, furan bio-plastic is also more expensive than the normal plastics. Upon consideration, though, it is a worthy enough cause to spend more money. Besides, regular plastic is usually just thrown away after being used, which causes many problems and needs a lot of extra money to minimize environmental pollution. Bio-plastics like the furan bio-plastic don’t need extra money to minimize pollution because they biodegrade by themselves without harming the environment. In the future, it is likely that the cost will drop considerably, as Dr. Hong has said that the team is working to make it a reasonable price for commercialization.

Then, how good are the bio-plastics are to the environment? There are two types of bio-plastics. One type is the bio-plastic that can biodegrade itself to nature and the other type is one that produces zero carbon-dioxide, so that it can reduce the pollution caused by carbon-dioxide. Carbon dioxide is recognized as one of the main causes of global warming. This furan bio-plastic unfortunately doesn’t biodegrade itself, but is one of the bio-plastics that produce zero carbon by using biomass as a source of raw materials, according to an email from Dr. Hong.

In the past, people didn’t use bio-plastics because of their weak durability. But because we know that it could be more effective to the environment and reduce pollution, now we should use bio-plastics instead of regular plastic. Also, the furan based bio-plastic is developed by Korean company, so using them could help the company and our economy as well. Furan bio-plastic is good enough to replace normal PET. There aren’t any good enough reasons not to replace plastic them with the bio-plastics.