A new Biodegradable Plastic is made from …. Cactus!

In a university lab near Guadalajara, Mexico, researchers trim cactus leaves, put them into a juicer and create a bright green liquid. When it’s mixed with other natural materials and processed, it undergoes an impressive transformation: the cactus juice becomes a biodegradable plastic!

Plastic made from cactus alone doesn’t help to stop the flow of trash into waterways. But the researchers state that the material biodegrades quickly and is nontoxic if it’s eaten. Apart from that, contrary to plastic made from fossil fuels, the cactus-based plastic is carbon neutral as it breaks down. The prickly pear cactus used in the experiment, which grows locally, is well suited to become plastic.

Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, a chemical engineering professor at the University of the Valley of Atemajac, who is leading the research: “The cactus of this species contains a large amount of sugars and gums that favor the formation of the biopolymer.”

The resulting material isn’t yet as long-lasting as plastic made from fossil fuels. But it could still be useful in some applications. Ortiz “We are thinking of products that are disposable, single-use, or that do not need to be durable.”

The researchers are currently working with a company that is interested in bringing the material to market.