One such surprise was Cibele Oliveira, from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. She got in touch in response to my scoop.it magazine, alerting me to work she has done on the manufacture of composite plastics using a mix of plastic and organic materials. Composite plastics are not particularly new.
The work that Cibele drew my attention to was the production of these composite plastics using a mix of plastics sorted from Municipal Solid Waste and bagasse. A paper presenting her work is contained in a book containing prize winning research into sustainable cities (pdf - go to page 166).
Since the work is published in Portugese, I did a rough and ready translation using Google Translate so that I could get a sense of what the work was about. Of course, any poor writing is entirely my fault, and I invite readers to offer corrections where necessary.
The thrust of the work is that composite materials were able to be manufactured from a blend of waste plastic and bagasse, without affecting too many of the mechanical strength properties. However, the rigidity and thermal stability are considerably affected, a thermal anti-oxidant would need to be used if the recycling composites were to be used in applications where thermal stability is important.
|Bagasse reinforced composite plastics, in the proportion of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20% and 25% bagasse|
It is important work, and has many echos of the work being done by Waste for Life, a group that describes itself as:
Waste for Life is a loosely joined network of scientists, engineers, educators, architects, artists, designers, and cooperatives working together to develop poverty-reducing solutions to specific environmental problems. We use scientific knowledge and low-threshold/high-impact technologies to add value to resources that are commonly considered harmful or without worth, but are often the source of livelihood for society’s poorest members. Our twin goals are to reduce the damaging environmental impact of non-recycled plastic waste products and to promote self-sufficiency and economic security for at-risk populations who depend upon waste to survive.
We, ourselves, are not interested in profit, but are keen to disseminate a technology that upgrades waste plastic and natural fibers into composite materials for use in domestic products and building materials.This is all really interesting work. To be able to take plastics of no value in MSW and make it into useful products, whilst at the same time assisting to resolve poverty, is an impressive undertaking. It is pure entrepreneurship, with very limited safety net in the event that it fails.
So thanks Cibele, and thanks to the contacts at Waste for Life who I've dealt with in the past.