Ann, this is definitely big news! This technology could easily be a game changer. And it is an interesting use for supercritical water. Supercritical fluids have many interesting properties. Only recently have people begun to take advantage of these properties.
There are a few minor errors in this article, mostly in the third paragraph. First, polyethylene and polypropylene aren't produced from sugars by fermentation. Fermentation of sugars produces ethanol. Ethanol can then be used to produce ethylene, which in turn can be used to produce polyethylene. The process described in the article only gives you the first step (sugars). These sugars could potentially be used in any number of industrial processes. As Renmatix puts it, "We don't sell cake to the baker, we create the flour" -- or sugar, as the case may be.
Second, the sentence "cellulosic sugars are extremely difficult to break down" should probably say something more like "breaking cellulosic material down into sugars can be difficult."
Still, this is a huge development. My biggest concern about bioplastics has always been the morality of using food crops to produce disposable consumer goods in the midst of a global food crisis. A cheap, fast method of producing biopolymer feedstocks from waste materials is a big step towards addressing this concern.
More companies like BASF need to pour investment dollars into companies like Renmatix to push forward the commercialization of novel bioplastics. As with most emerging technologies, the innovations come smaller companies, which are often bootstrapping development. Cash infusions like this one go a long way in helping these technologies see the light of day.
This is a great technology that uses bio waste to manufacture good product. Hopefully, it is not cost prohibitive to do so. Consumers are typically not motivated enough by "green" product to pay a premium for it.
Although plastics make up only about 11% of all US municipal solid waste, many are actually more energy-dense than coal. Converting these non-recycled plastics into energy with existing technologies could reduce US coal consumption, as well as boost domestic energy reserves, says a new study.
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