A Sharp idea blends plant-based and waste plastics


Sharp Corporation has developed a new technology to blend plant-based plastic - with corn as the raw material - and waste plastic recovered from recycled consumer electronics.

This technology 'compatibilises' the two non-homogenous plastic materials, by causing micro-dispersion - or an increase of compatibility - at the molecular level.

Plant-based plastic has had problems in terms of impact and thermal resistance - which had been limiting the adoption of the material in durable consumer goods, particularly electronic products. In the new technology, Sharp has improved these problems to a practical level. This allows the repeated re-use of recycled polypropylene and polystyrene from discarded household electrical appliances in new manufactured products, without loss of physical properties such as material strength.

Sharp will be conducting tests to assess the product's commercial potential - with the goal of using blended plastic in its electrical products during the fiscal year 2006. When the price of plant-based plastics is reduced to a level - on par with general plastics - the company estimates that, by 2010, the percentage of renewable resources (including plant-based and waste plastic) used in all its products will increase to 30%.

Using a mix of plant-based plastic and waste plastic in consumer electronics can significantly reduce environmental impact, compared with using plastics derived from petroleum-based feedstock. Plant-based plastic, in particular, can reduce the impact on the environment, given that incineration of the materials does not cause atmospheric CO2 concentration to rise.