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Supporting the development of compostable bioplastics

NPL and Biome Bioplastics collaborate to understand the behaviour and performance of bioplastics

3 minute read

Biome Bioplastics, a UK plastics company, aims is to produce bioplastics that can challenge and replace conventional fossil-based polymers but are completely compostable. This has the potential to significantly reduce the impact of plastics on the environment. In order to support quality control processes and enable further exploitation of product development, Biome needed to understand the behaviour and performance of bioplastics.

Working with Biome through the Innovate UK Analysis for Innovators Programme (A4I), the team at NPL investigated the physical and chemical properties of Biome’s bioplastics. The resulting information enabled Biome to identify some key material characteristics, such as porosity and crystallinity, which are likely associated with the disintegration behaviour of end products.

Based on these findings, NPL and Biome developed rapid, cost-effective and quantitative methods which can potentially be used to monitor key process parameters to ensure product quality and reproducibility. The knowledge obtained from this work can be further exploited to broaden Biome’s product ranges, bringing high-volume, cost-effective biomaterials and bioplastics to market. Since disintegration tests are expensive and time-consuming, unlocking this knowledge could also lead to the development of new analytical tools which predict products’ end-of-life performance. NPL continued the collaboration with Biome to investigate the impact of the manufacturing process on products’ performance, which is of great importance to the sustainability of plastics in their life cycle.

Paul Mines, CEO, Biome Bioplastics said: "Collaborating with NPL has been important in deepening our understanding of several of our products and uncovering the root causes behind their unique behaviours. Through a structured approach and rigorous analysis, NPL's team demonstrated a high level of professionalism, consistently delivering high-quality data within agreed-upon deadlines. This timely access to a wide range of analyses complemented our in-house capabilities and played a pivotal role in supporting the development of Biome's next generation of bio-based compostable products. We are excited about the ongoing partnership with the NPL team and look forward to delivering further technical milestones together."

Dr Yiwen Pei, Senior Scientist,NPL said: “It has been an exciting collaboration. Understanding how fundamental material properties impact the life cycle of sustainable plastics is of great importance to the polymer manufacturing industry. It was great to see how surface chemical analysis, together with some advanced material characterisations, can answer some key questions in understanding the root course of the materials’ disintegration behaviour in complex composting environments such as our gardens.”

Find out more here

Analysis for Innovators programme

04 Dec 2023