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  • Biodegradable sanitary pads

    23.05.2017

    Each year, nearly 20 billion sanitary pads, tampons and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year... A team of students at the University of Utah has now developed a new, 100-percent biodegradable feminine maxi pad that is made of all natural material.

    Each year, nearly 20 billion sanitary pads, tampons and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year, and it takes centuries for them to biodegrade inside plastic bags, according to a 2016 Harvard Business School report. Additionally, it requires high amounts of fossil fuel energy to produce the plastic for these products, resulting in a large carbon footprint.
    But a team of students led by University of Utah materials science and engineering assistant professor (lecturer) Jeff Bates has developed a new, 100-percent biodegradable feminine maxi pad that is made of all natural materials and is much thinner and more comfortable than other similar products.

    The SHERO Pad uses a processed form of algae as its super-absorbent ingredient, which is then covered with cotton and the same material that makes up tea bags. The result is a maxi pad that is effective, comfortable to wear and can break down anywhere from 45 days to six months.

    “This is novel in comparison to other biodegradable options out there for pads,” said Amber Barron, a University of Utah junior in materials science and engineering who is on the team of four students. “Most are really bulky because they don’t have a superabsorbent layer.”

    The need for something like the SHERO Pad originally came from SHEVA, a nonprofit advocacy group for women and girls in Guatemala, which turned to Bates because it was looking for a sustainable solution for feminine hygiene waste. One of Bates’ area of research is in hydrogels, which are water-absorbing polymers.

    “In Guatemala, there’s no public sanitation system. All the rivers are black because they are so polluted,” Bates says. “So there really is a genuine need for people in Guatemala to have biodegradable options.”

    Part of Bates’ solution came one night while feeding his 5-year-old daughter.

    “One day we were eating dinner with white rice, and my daughter spilled it all over the floor,” he says about that night two years ago. “The next morning, when I was cleaning it up, it was all dry and crusted. I drove to work and thought, ‘What was it about rice that does that?’”

    That question of how rice hydrates and dehydrates began a two-year process of searching for the right natural materials for the feminine pad, which included testing with different leaves, such as banana leaves, and forms of cotton.

    Bates, Barron and the rest of the team — which includes sophomore students, Sarai Patterson, Ashlea Patterson and Ali Dibble — ultimately developed the SHERO Pad, which is made up of four layers: An outer layer of raw cotton similar to a tea bag to repel liquid, a transfer layer of organic cotton to absorb the liquid and pull it from the outer layer, the super-absorbent layer made of agarose gel (a polymer from brown algae), and a final layer made of a corn-based material that keeps the moisture inside and prevents leakage.

    While there are other similar sustainable feminine pads on the market today, they either use a hydrogel that is not 100 percent biodegradable or they use thicker layers of natural cotton that are uncomfortable to wear, Barron says. Another advantage to the SHERO Pad is that it can easily be manufactured in smaller villages using locally sourced materials and without sophisticated tools, just common presses and grinding stones, Bates says.

    While the team originally developed the SHERO Pad for users in developing countries such as Guatemala, Bates and the students also will start selling the product in the U.S. for environmentally conscious women. A working prototype has been produced, and they have launched a startup company based in Bountiful, Utah. They hope to have products in Guatemala and on U.S. store shelves within a year.

    maxi pad

    The SHERO pad is featured as one of three University of Utah capstone projects in this video (relevant portions begin at 0:55 and 2:03):https://vimeo.com/umcvideo/review/206496091/9d7a0b9e30


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  • An edible water bottle makes a splash

    An edible water bottle makes a splash [19-04-17]

    Need hydration on the go? Ooho! is a single-serve seaweed-based squishy spherical packaging for beverages of every kind. Touted as being biodegradable and 100% natural, the product has created a sensation - securing its initial £400,000 funding target through Crowdcube within days and more than doubling that to date.  [more]

  • Two new injection molding grades expand FKuR’s Biograde portfolio of bioplastics

    Two new injection molding grades expand FKuR’s Biograde portfolio of bioplastics [18-04-17]

    Bioplastics pioneer FKuR Kunststoff GmbH has extended its product range of cellulose acetate based injection molding grades. The Willich, Germany–based company has added two new Biograde products, both of which are based on a newly developed combination of raw materials and additives. The two new grades join the current C9550 standard grade.  [more]

  • Metgen invents novel chemo-enzymatic route to FDCA

    Metgen invents novel chemo-enzymatic route to FDCA [14-04-17]

    MetGen, a Finnish company specialized in designing and marketing novel enzymatic solutions, has invented a revolutionary chemo-enzymatic pathway that, says the company enables streamlined processes towards platform chemicals. One of these is FDCA.  [more]

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