Is bioplastic about to become a reality for us? Japanese scientists have created its paper version

The problem of decomposing plastic packaging may soon become a thing of the past. Japanese scientists have developed a special paper with properties similar to those of plastic. What's more, it is completely safe for the environment and decomposes quickly. Could it soon become the basic material used for packaging and many other products that today are made almost exclusively of plastic?

Published: 11-07-2022

Paper which is like plastic

For many years now, there have been products on the market designed to offer an alternative to plastic, which not only pollutes the environment but also takes hundreds of years to decompose. The scientists at the University of Tokyo have developed a special coating that provides the treated paper with characteristics similar to those of plastic – primarily water resistance and durability. Such “paper plastic” can successfully replace the traditional and commonly used one, as it is completely safe both for people and for the environment.

The main problem with plastic is that its decomposition process is long-lasting and also dangerous. The paper invented by Japanese scientists, called Choetsu, provides the answer to both these issues. The Choetsu coating is fully biodegradable, which means that over time it breaks down into simple, environmentally friendly components such as carbon, water and silicon that is somewhat reminiscent of sand.

Durability and water resistance of “paper plastic” – how does it work?

A special coating developed by scientists from Tokyo gives paper some of the properties of plastic without any of its drawbacks. This is certainly an important step towards reducing plastic consumption on our planet. How can cardboard be as resistant as PET packaging? It is enough to apply the Choetsu coating to the paper surface, which cures when exposed to the moisture in the air and the cellulose (the main paper component). This makes the paper packaging durable and ensures a good seal.

The future of the packaging industry?

Experts believe that the development of a special coating may mark an important step in the shift away from single-use plastic packaging, dishes and many other products that litter the planet, decompose dangerously and over a long period of time.

The author of the invention, Professor Zenji Hiroi, emphasises that “paper plastic” may soon come into common use. He talks about overcoming the technological challenge and believes that we should soon witness the first mass applications of the Choetsu coating, including in the production of packaging, dishes or cutlery for eating.

How long does plastic decompose?

The decomposition process of a plastic bag or cup can take from 100 to as long as 1,000 years. The exact time depends on the type of product and the substances used in its production. In comparison, the average paper decomposition time is about 6 months. Thanks to the use of a special coating that makes paper products water-resistant and gives them other plastic properties, it is possible to supply the market with packaging and other paper products that are just as durable as plastic, yet decompose several hundred times faster.

Paper with plastic properties does not produce harmful substances upon its decomposition. Unfortunately, it is not the case with plastic – a plastic bottle thrown into a lake can gradually release toxic substances that pollute the water, ultimately resulting in water contamination. It is estimated that up to 12 million pieces of plastic waste end up in seas and oceans every year. This data demonstrates how the responsible search for alternatives to plastic is one of the most important challenges that modern civilisation has to face. Discoveries such as the one made by the scientists from the University of Tokyo presented here will certainly make it possible to create even more effective and safer alternatives to plastic products.




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