16 Juli 2011

Bio-wastes could be turned to bio-fillers

Natural fibers and fillers fastest growing segment of plastics additive market

In its aim to make the country a source of bio-fillers for various industries in the world, the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) is currently advancing its research on bio-composites. In a statement, PhilMech executive director Ricardo L. Cachuela said the development of fillers from bio-wastes from certain crops can spawn a domestic industry that can supply the rising need for bio-fillers and bio-composites worldwide.

“As more people in the world become aware of the need to save the environment, there would be a gradual shift toward products that use natural raw materials, like biomass from agricultural bi-products. So it is just logical that government agencies like PhilMech advance its research and development on bio-fillers,” Cachuela said.

Bio-fillers are usually combined with traditional materials like plastics to create bio-composites, which are used in the manufacture of various products like paneling and packaging materials. Bio-composites reduce the dependence of various industries on plastic resins, which are derived from petroleum.

Based on www.specialchem4polymers.com, “natural fibers and fillers are the fastest growing segment of the plastics additive market. A 21 percent annual growth rate is predicted for European bio-composites with demand reaching 427,000 tons in 2014. The market for injection molding compounds using natural fiber reinforcement is at an early stage and offers some exciting opportunities for new business driven by environmental and cost advantages.”

PhilMech has identified starch from potato and cassava, and fibers from bagasse, corn cobs and coconut husk as promising as raw materials for bio-fillers. Among the agri-wastes, corn cobs gives the highest tensile strength when processed into a bio-filler. “With PhilMech’s discovery that corn cobs could provide the good tensile strength as a bio-filler, the Philippines could put to good use the thousands of metric tons of corn cobs that are just thrown away every day,” Cachuela said. Tensile strength is the maximum load that a material can support without fracturing when stretched or subjected to stress.

Since the Philippines produces a lot of agri-wastes, Cachuela said that the development of a bio-filler industry to supply the needs of companies manufacturing products from bio-composites worldwide looks very promising.

“Let us remember that the Philippines emerged as one of the major suppliers of coconets for environmental applications when it was discovered that discarded coconut husks can provide the raw materials for that application. So the potential to utilize agricultural wastes as raw materials for bio-fillers cannot be overlooked, especially now that more industries are going ‘green’,” Cachuela said.

Source: Philippine Information Agency (PIA), press release, 2011-07-16.

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