Nature can be seen as a governing force, which holds overwhelming complexity through the interactions of the animal kingdom, with the climate, ocean, and the land. Humankind has been considered a resultant byproduct of nature, which is currently acting to pollute the very fabric of what is keeping us alive. Climate change is becoming more and more apparent, which in part is due to plastic wastefulness. As technological innovation has been directed at overcoming fundamental environmental issues, there has been a drive towards bioplastics with companies like EraNova fighting for environmental goals.
Switch To Bioplastics
Plastic is a widespread chemical, with ubiquitous usage around the world. Fundamentally, its widespread application is selected for by basic economic principles, from the manufacturing perspective, it is cheap, durable, sterile, and can easily morph into different shapes for packaging. Since most of the businesses are founded upon driving profitability, sometimes at the expense of the environment, plastic is widespread.
Society’s Dependence On Plastics
Only once legislation is introduced, or if the consumer base changes tastes and preferences geared towards more ‘green friendly’ alternatives, most businesses will continue to use plastic. Erin Simon, WWF’s director of sustainability research and development, said “The problem is that as a population we have continued to innovate and create new ways to use plastic—to the point that we are dependent on plastic in our everyday lives”. Plastic bags are used in supermarkets, most of the products contained within the plastic.
The issue with plastic is ultimate due to biodegradation. Microorganisms in nature decompose substances, reintroducing the product into the environment, which is a sustainable process. Food wastes, such as apple cores take 1 month to completely decompose. Paper only takes 2-6 weeks to decompose. However, plastic takes 1,000 years to biodegrade, plastic bottles taking 450 years each.
Need For Innovation In The Field Of Bioplastics
The compelling need for innovation to address the compounding issue is a French-based company called EraNova, founded in 2016, by Philippe Lavoisier. It is a frontrunner in the sustainability movement. EraNova’s company goal is to pursue the ‘impossible goal of saving civilization from environmental, technological, and social suicide’.
Lavoisier said, “We are convinced that society has only 10 or 12 years to change course or all bets are off.” EraNova’s director, Dick Samson, said “We’d like to help everyone, but we have the bandwidth to help only a few pivotal players accelerate their high-tech, green-leaning contributions — in turn helping everyone”
Over 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced worldwide each year, 50% of which is for single-use purposes. 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide, which is equivalent to over a million bags being used every minute.
Poor Management Of Plastics
The poor management of plastics around the world causes a high percentage to be dumped in our oceans, creating an urgent need to address this problem. Simon said “Today science tells us that the majority of plastic waste ending up in oceans is coming from land, specifically due to limited or nonexistent waste management. You can make something 100% recyclable, but if you don’t have a recycling facility, it just ends up as trash.”
Issues EraNova Addresses
EraNova addresses two global environmental issues, the accelerated proliferation of algae, and the wide-scale production and use of plastic. Algae is detrimental to marine life and thrives in conditions provided by global warming. To give an indication of the severity of algae, it reduces the oxygen in the ocean and access of microorganisms to sunlight.
Given photosynthetic processes of Phytoplankton, which absorb CO2 and release oxygen, they are responsible for contributing to every second inhale of oxygen. EraNova uses macro green algae, collected from beaches, as a resource to manufacture recyclable, bio-sourced, compostable resins.
Using “Enzymatic Cracking”
Eranova follows a process of starch enrichment, derived from the algae, which are collected from shores. The extraction of starch from the algae is through a process of ‘enzymatic cracking’, a technique which the company patented. This technique is unique in the sense that it produces 13 times more starch than would be obtained from a land plant.
Application In Bioplastics
The starch is then transformed into the processable resin, which has a wide array of applications in terms of compostable and biodegradable bioplastics. Other applications extend to biofuel, biopolymers, proteins for animal feedstock, and pharmaceutical byproducts
European Regulatory Initiative To Control Plastic Usage
On the 6th of March, 2020, there was an initiative, a European act to control plastic usage, to promote the circular economy of plastics. There were 70 signatures from large corporations, including Nestlé, Bonduelle, and Suez, 14 EU member states, and two NGOs. The initiative aims to limit the presence of plastics in nature by 2025, and achieve better life cycle management.
EraNova’s Role In The Initiative
EraNova participated in the initiative. Phillip Michon, associate director of EraNova said “Our economic and technical model is perfectly in line with this pact. We are developing today’s materials by integrating materials derived from a pollutant, green algae. By combining them with recycled plastics for recyclable thin films and composites, the CO2 impact of these resins is greatly reduced without any visible compromise on performance,”.
Although Eranova is a small business, they have large ambition, and addressing issues that are global. As plastics usage is continuing to grow, and as climate change continues to worsen, companies like EraNova are becoming more important.
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