12. Jul 2022
CJ BIO, a division of South Korea-based (Seoul) CJ CheilJedang, recently announced that marine biodegradability testing of its environmentally friendly amorphous polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) material conducted by the Korea Conformity Laboratories (KCL) showed weight loss of 57 % after just 11 weeks, demonstrating the polymer’s ability to quickly biodegrade in the natural environment.
Amorphous PHA is a softer, more rubbery version of PHA that offers fundamentally different performance characteristics than the crystalline or semi-crystalline forms that currently dominate the PHA market. Initial applications of the technology will be used as a modifier to other compostable polymers and biopolymers to improve functional and processing characteristics, and for enabling these products to achieve faster rates of biodegradation or composting.
South Korea is ranked second among the highest recyclers of municipal solid trash among countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with recycling composite rates of around 60 %. KCL is a government-designated national supplier organization that tests, evaluates and certifies products and services in the fields of construction, living, and the environment. The Korean Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources organized the testing through KCL to further the government’s efforts to investigate technologies that can help the Asian nation to continually improve the health of the global environment and to reduce its global footprint.
KCL placed amorphous PHA provided by CJ BIO, along with semi-crystalline PHA, and polylactic acid (PLA) films (the size of A4 paper) into Korea’s West Sea and measured the weight changes at intervals of two weeks for 11 weeks. While 57 % weight loss was recorded for the amorphous PHA, the weight of the semicrystalline PHA declined 28 %, and PLA lost 1.2 % of its weight.
"KCL's experiments in the Western Sea Coast are important because they have proven PHA's excellent biodegradability and industrial value outside of the lab and in real-world conditions", says Seung Jin Lee, Head of the Biomaterials business. "We expect that mixing our amorphous PHA with other materials, such as PLA and PBAT, will improve the levels of biodegradability in those polymers, and we are continuing to conduct research and development with those materials and others”.
CJ BIO is the world’s first and only producer of amorphous PHA, which is TUV OK Certified for industrial and home compost, soil biodegradable, and marine biodegradable. It is considered ‘home compostable,’ meaning that it does not require specialized equipment or elevated temperatures to fully degrade. Segments and applications for its amorphous PHA, marketed under the brand name PHACT®, are numerous. Immediate focus will be on flexible and rigid packaging, which accounts for greater than 50 % of single-use plastics. Other markets include agriculture, organic waste management, coatings and adhesives, personal care, and healthcare.
CJ BIO is continuing to analyze the biodegradable properties of PHA in collaboration with KCL. Marine biodegradation experiments on products including packaging and straws made from a mixture of PHA and other biodegradable materials were started over the past month, and the impact on the ecosystem is also being measured.
Production of amorphous PHA has started at CJ BIO’s manufacturing facility in Pasuruan, Indonesia, which has a rated capacity of 5,000 tonnes, with plans to increase production to meet expected demand.