A researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) is working on a sustainable alternative to foamed plastic made from organic waste. This could one day be used to make yoga mats, shoe soles and parts for the auto industry.

Zuzana Sediva wants to produce plastic foams from organic waste. (Photo: Stefan Weiss, partners in GmbH / ETH Zurich)
Zuzana Sediva wants to produce plastic foams from organic waste. (Photo: Stefan Weiss, partners in GmbH / ETH Zurich)

 

Biodegradable plastics are very much on trend. According to a press release from ETH, there have been very few sustainable alternatives for products containing foamed plastic until now. Zuzana Sediva is working to change this. As part of her ETH Pioneer Fellowship, Zuzana Sediva is currently developing a new process in her laboratory at the university. She is making foam materials out of organic waste. 

Her solution is sustainable in two respects: first, the biomass used in her process is a natural waste product that comes partly from agriculture, so no additional land cultivation is necessary. Second, the organic foam material breaks down much faster than conventional foamed plastic.

The Czech researcher uses an innovative bio-​propellant based on a mixture of gas and water. She developed this as part of her dissertation at ETH and filed a patent for it last year, in partnership with the university. If foam materials made out of organic waste are to achieve a high level of elasticity, a precise recipe must be followed. Sediva is also considering patenting this “recipe” in future.

She is now seeking industrial partners willing to be involved in pilot projects. “I think packaging would be a good entry point,” she says. Her foamed materials can be used to manufacture shoe soles, toys and yoga mats as well as in the auto industry or construction.

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