Biodegradable Plastic

The Design Challenge

In Kenya, nearly 24 million plastic bags are used monthly, half of which end up in the solid waste mainstream. Plastic bags now constitute the biggest challenge to solid waste management in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. Nairobi is home to three million, three hundred people. Two years ago, Kenya banned the use, manufacture and sale of environmentally harmful plastics, polythene bags and packaging materials. Although people in Kenya now use fabric bags there are some disadvantages to it such as high costs of fabric bags. KAM Stated “We have over 176 plastic manufacturing companies in Kenya which directly employ 2.89 per cent of all Kenyan employees and 60,000 others indirectly,” Therefore, the ban of plastic bags has brought unemployment to some workers in Kenya. Creating biodegradable plastic bags, which ensures that over time, the bag will degrade. Whether it be in water or on land. When wholly submerged in water, the plastic bag will dissolve, and the chemicals left behind do not affect the surrounding biodiversity such as marine life or plant life.
The purpose of this product is to conserve the environment by creating a product- a plastic bag which can dissolve in water and biodegrade to decrease the amount of plastic bags which are ending up in the landfill, and to create a greener earth which is preserved for the future generations to come. This product turns something that is harmful the the environment, and affecting plant and animal life, especially marine life. This product solves the problem of excessive pollution caused by plastic bags. 

Summary of Research

When testing my first prototype; Using lemongrass essential oil and cassava starch to create soluble plastic, I was not able to get cassava starch, so instead I used cassava flour and therefore the starchy part of the flour was very little and it mixed with the other parts of the flour. Using Potato Starch. Starch-based plastic represents a good alternative to the usual plastic. Among the different types of starch, I decided to test Potato Starch as Well. starch can be processed to produce a starch-based polymer. The Plastic from Potato Starch was very brittle and not as flexible as I wanted it to be. I have found another solution but still need to test it out, by using casein, which is the protein extracted from milk. And according to my research, These casein-based films are up to 500 times better than plastics at keeping oxygen away from food and, because they are derived from milk, are biodegradable, sustainable and edible.

Shown above is the plastic created using potato starch and glycerin

There was no actual product for using cassava flour.

Link to Process Journal & Final Reflection Video

Experiments with Biodegradable Plastics

Link to Process Journal: