The huge quantity of pits discarded by the Mexican avocado food product industry is about to become one of the latest feedstocks for bioplastics. The Mexican company Biofase has developed a 100 percent biodegradable, compostable polymer made from avocado pits and is offering the polymer for use as either resins or additives.
We've discussed other bioplastics and biofuels that use agricultural-industrial waste as feedstocks. The latest one means companies making avocado products in Mexico will no longer need to pay third parties to haul away the pits. Scott Munguia, co-founder of Biofase, told FreshFruitPortal.com that the Mexican avocado industry discards 30,000 metric tons of pits each month.
Biofase has patented its new bioplastic material and the process it developed for converting the monomer in avocado pits. Munguia said his company is looking for other raw biomaterials with the same monomer.
The company is offering two different product lines: the Biocom biodegradable and compostable thermoplastic resins (which are made from renewable sources for the manufacture of plastic products) and biodegradable additives such as Bioblend, which can be blended with petroleum products such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and cellulose polymers to make them partially biodegradable. Biofase will formally enter the market this year and is projecting production rates of 30 metric tons a month.
Biofase is negotiating with Mexican fertilizer companies interested in using its resins in their plastic packaging, and it is talking to Mexican supermarkets about using the resins in plastic bags. The company is confining its material sources and sales to Mexico for the time being. According to Munguia, the bioplastic market in Mexico is growing at a rate of 20 percent per year.
Biofase is also considering whether to develop its own line of biodegradable, compostable food service items, including cutlery, bags, and cups.
We've thought about having ourselves produce the products directly but we'll need to capitalize on the company. For example, in Mexico, the regulations are more beneficial for bags than injectable products, so we want to see how these government regulation trends develop and if it grows and what would be best to invest in. We're going in but we want to wait for the market to show clearer trends.
The five founders of Biofase -- Munguia, Mauricio Valdes, Carolina Cavazos, Everardo Padilla, and Juan A. Osorio -- developed the technology as a student project at the Tecnologico de Monterrey Campus. In February 2012, the team won first prize in the northeast Mexico FRISA Award competition for Entrepreneurial Development. In July, Biofase was named one of the 20 most promising green companies in Mexico during the Cleantech Challenge Mexico 2012 event, where it received the Technological Innovation Award.
All good questions, Clint. None of the Biofase-specific answers are immediately available on Biofase's website. I looked for such information--after using Google Translate, but this effort is quite new: the company was started early last year. I hope they publish a paper on the subject soon. Regarding compostability and recycling: most participants in the bioplastic industry say that recycling is the first "best use", and compostability comes second. Making a bioplastic compostable is usually aimed at food-service or other single-use items--as Biofase is doing--since the idea there is at least if the items are thrown in the trash (as they often are, as Elizabeth's comment points out), it's better to be compostable and/or be biodegradable in a landfill. We covered this here: http://www.designnews.com/author.
I agree, Greg--good to see not just a great idea for using a natural resource to create a biodegradeable plastic but also showing the financial benefit to doing so, which often is how naysayers dismiss such initiatives. I love this idea, of course, especially as someone who consciously limits my use of single-use plastic because I know the truth about it--it can only be recycled once and ultimately ends up in landfills or in the ocean. And again, it's taking a country outside of the U.S. to lead the way on an environmental business move. Will definitely be keeping an eye on how this and similar ideas pan out.
Great job for turning a cost outlay into a profit. I applaud the innovative initiative to take a previous waste product and turn it into a productive product and a new revenue stream (not to mention reducing waste to the environment).
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