R&D solution to tackle plastic waste for nurseries

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Scion scientists have been instrumental in developing and testing biodegradable nursery pots that will help nurseries and Kiwi gardeners to reduce plastic waste and its impact on the environment. The biodegradable pots, made from biopolymers and a biofiller, will offer an alternative to the estimated 350 million plants in pots produced by New Zealand nurseries each year.

Manufacturing of the pots will scale up after production processes are finetuned using funding received from the Government’s Plastics Innovation Fund announced recently by Environment Minister David Parker. The pots are expected to be commercially available by September 2023.

The successful prototype, PolBionix, has been four years in development at Scion as part of a project with commercial client Wilson and Ross Limited. Director Peter Wilson engaged the services of Scion’s expert biomaterials and biodegradable testing team to develop and test a formulation for a product that meets the requirements of a nursery, last at least 12 months above ground then, after its planted in soil, continues to biodegrade. The pot then provides fertiliser for the plant as it breaks down, supporting plant growth.

Polymer technologist Maxime Barbier developed various formulations in the project’s discovery phase, with product testing carried out in small batches. Early results were mixed, however, the team eventually developed a prototype that showed promising biodegradation properties in 2020.

Scion’s scientific discovery during the testing phase has resulted in the filing of two international patents. Wilson is excited about the opportunities ahead for the product and its widespread adoption by nurseries, both for home gardeners and planners of large-scale infrastructure and environmental restoration projects, especially near waterways.

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