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New product can make plastic biodegradable, says DOST unit

By Ted P. Torres (The Philippine Star) Updated May 31, 2010 12:00 AM
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MANILA, Philippines - The Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) has verified an additive that makes plastic materials biodegradable. The ITDI is a line agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The ITDI issued Environmental Technology Verification (ETV)-013 for the additive, BioMate, which is manufactured by First In Colours Inc. (FIC). FIC is the sister company of publicly listed firm Chemrez Technologies Inc.

This is the first such additive in the P75-billion Philippine plastics film and bags industry to be verified by the ITDI as making plastics both photo and biodegradable, although many imported additives sold in the local market have made similar claims.

FIC’s operations manager Lester Lao said that polyolefin plastics formulated with BioMate undergo a two-step degradation process; first by photodegradation and then biodegradation.

Photodegradation is the breakdown of plastic by ultra-violet light and thermal energy from the sun.

On the other hand, biodegradation is the process where the broken plastic materials are digested by bacteria and living organisms, and eventually transform into carbon dioxide (CO2), and water (H2O).

If exposed outdoors, films with BioMate becomes embrittle in 30-45 days. Embrittlement continues until films are small enough for bacteria and microorganisms to consume (within nine to 12 months). Indoors, shelf life of plastics with BioMate is six to nine months.

Because BioMate makes plastic bags oxo-biodegradable, pollution of waterways which hurts marine life, clogging of sewages that cause flood and choking of landfills, are prevented when these plastic materials enter the ecosystem.

The additive has been formulated in response to public clamor for more environment-friendly products specially since chronic floodings during the wet season are usually blamed on non-biodegradable plastics clogging waterways.

“Being the first and only such Filipino product, BioMate is a testament to the pioneering spirit of FIC, a company also known for introducing custom colorants to the plastic industry,” Lao said in a statement.