Processes for the production of biodegradable plastics from beet sugar and cereals are being developed in France.

The Erstein sugar refinery in Alsace, the Research Institute for Development (IRD), in Marseilles, and the University of Montpellier have co-operated to obtain a biodegradable polymer said to be less expensive to produce. It also produces little pollution, as the only waste is water and carbon dioxide.

“The process consists first of converting the sucrose from beet into lactic acids by bacterial fermentation,” explains Bernard Ollivier, of the IRD. The acid molecules are then polymerized to form a plastics that is biodegradable in the environment and bio-assimilated by living organisms.

In Reims, the Agro-industrie Recherches et Développements (ARD) and CERME, the Centre for Research into Materials and Packaging, and the laboratory of the École Supérieure d’Ingénieur en Emballage et Conditionnement (Technical College for Packaging) have patented a process for producing a biodegradable material from cereals. This material has already been tested for packaging fruit.

In addition, the Centre for the Promotion of Carbohydrates (CVG), in Amiens, is also developing biodegradable plastics made from wheat starch. It is also working on biodegradable products to replace fluorinated polymers. These are said to be derived from vegetable gum and vegetable or animal protein, and used for protecting and strengthening food packaging paper.

More information from Dominique Picard, French Technology Press Bureau – TEL: +44 (0)207 235 5330. EMAIL: