Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts Waste Technology and Innovation Study

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Thermal/Biological Conversion – This Irish/German/US technology is only at the research stage but it is looking at the possibility that bacteria could help transform a key component of disposable polystyrene plastic cups, plates and utensils into a useful eco-friendly biodegradable plastic. The process works by heating plastics in the absence of oxygen to convert the polystyrene into styrene oil which is then fed to the bacterium that then converted the oil into a biodegradable plastic known as PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates). PHA has numerous uses in medicine and can be used to make plastic kitchenware, packaging film and other disposable items. The biodegradable plastic is resistant to hot liquids, greases and oils, and can have a long shelf life. Unlike polystyrene however, it readily breaks down in soil, water, septic systems and backyard composts.90

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