Scientists in Point Lees University, Keele, have developed a new plastic that is biodegradable, made from renewable sources and versatile.
"This is the ultimate plastic," said Teresa Plant, lead materials science officer at Point Lees's chemistry lab. "We can make it as hard or as pliable as we like. We imagine that pretty soon all plastics we use from sandwich wrappers to car parts will be made of this plastic."
Ligneous Plastic, as it has been termed, can be made using organic waste material, making it another ideal use of the waste that society produces in copious amounts.
"Ligneous plastic is made using a proprietary system," said Plant. "People can rest assured though, we don't have to use harsh chemicals to extract the plastic, nor do we use excessive amounts of energy. We can almost make it by hand."
By varying amounts of a secondary plastic that is produced alongside Ligneous Plastic, celluloid, the properties of Ligneous Plastic can be adjusted to make it more or less pliable.
"The only thing we've not been able to produce," said Plant, "is a transparent plastic. Even with mostly celluloid and only added ligneous plastic for strength, we couldn't make it completely see-through so we'll be carrying on looking."
"So far, they've been keeping this close to their chests," said Paul Looter, an environmentalist with Greenpeas. "I'd like to see more than words. I'd like to see the product and the manufacturing process to see if it is as green as they say."
In response, Plant produced a plank of the new plastic.
"It's wood," said Looter.
"It's like wood," said Plant. "It grows on trees and we can make any shape we like with it. It's definitely plastic though. This one also smells of pine."