'Potato Plastic' Could Reduce Waste

Published online: Oct 18, 2018 Articles
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Source: James Dyson Award 

Several million tons of plastic waste pollute the environment every year, and disposable or single-use plastic is a significant contributor to the problem. In response, a student from Gothenburg, Sweden, has been able to find the solution to the problem with “Potato Plastic,” an environmentally friendly, biodegradable alternative to the use of disposable plastic in the fast food industry–used for anything from cutlery to straws.

Behind the invention is Pontus Törnqvist, 24, winner of the Swedish leg of the 2018 prestigious James Dyson Awards. This is the first time the award has run in Sweden.

Potato Plastic consists only of potato starch and water. It is heated until the liquid thickens, then placed in molds and heated to solid. The resulting material is a kind of thermoplastic–a plastic created by heating which hardens when cooled. This means  it is moldable and can be shaped into any form. Because Potato Plastic is made of only naturally occurring substances, the products take just two months to decompose.

Törnqvist studies industrial design at Lund University. As Swedish national winner of the 2018 James Dyson Award, he receives more than $2,400 to develop Potato Plastic and a chance to win the international final of the competition.

“A large part of the plastic that comes into the environment comes from the fast-food industry,” says Törnqvist. “We need better options. Potato Plastic comes from the ground and can be composted without harm to nature. The idea can also be adapted to other countries and to what crops they grow there.”

Potato Plastic now progresses to the next stage of the James Dyson Award, where  Törnqvist will compete against entries from 26 other countries around the world.

“The breadth and ambition of the entries we have seen this year is outstanding,” says Peter Gammack, Dyson’s vice president of design and new technology. “Young engineers are restless in the face of global issues and they see technology as a catalyst for creating a better future. They demonstrate how simple, ingenious concepts have the power to revolutionise the way people live.”

Click here for more information on the James Dyson Award.