Step advantage: urgent issues with wide-ranging cooperation in polymer technology
We are approaching our thirtieth anniversary, and during this time we have carried out hundreds of successful domestic and international research projects. We have made a similar number of developments that we have been able to incorporate into the products and processes of our industrial partners. As the latest project of the Bay Zoltán Research Centre, we have launched an innovative set of programmes on plastics that aims to respond to an emerging problem in a step ahead.
Plastics currently in use are going through a period of intense negative campaigning, undeservedly so in our view is that the problem is not with plastics, but with irresponsibility and the lack of education and recycling systems. In the light of current trends, the plastics industry will continue to evolve, within a not necessarily well focused legislative framework.
A critical point of transformation is the replacement of fossil-based plastics by bio-based ones. However, there are also many misunderstandings and misconceptions surrounding this material (type). Today, the most widely used bio-based and biodegradable polymer is polylactic acid (PLA). A significant proportion of PLA products are manufactured using food raw materials such as cereals and sugar cane to produce lactic acid – i.e. the monomer –. In contrast, following Eco-Design principles, we believe that the first step is to explore alternative sources that are not food or feedstock products.
Of course, there are plenty of candidates for the bio-based plastics of the future, so our research and development is not limited to PLA. Our intention is to involve the powerful players in the Hungarian manufacturing and research ecosystem to move the programme into the right direction.
Our current knowledge is that there is a lack of complex competence in the region, concentrated in one actor, which can carry out product development with a cradle-to-cradle approach and in addition make recommendations to legislative bodies, key stakeholders, industry and most importantly the public.