The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a biopolymer material modified with a natural polymer that is 100% biodegradable.

According to CSIR, there is a valid need to replace the synthetic polymers that are petroleum based, with natural polymers, in plastics, to aid the local recycling efforts.

Most of the plastics used in South Africa are nonbiodegradable, especially in the packaging industry.  These plastics end up in landfills, posing environmental threats and health concerns.

The sustainable solution developed by CSIR uses a polymer from biomass and targets single-use applications. The natural polymer solution can be employed to develop a plastic sheet that can be used in packaging, as well as disposable material for diagnostic devices.

Another technology that the CSIR is developing, together with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), is a membrane and method for the preservation of fresh produce, based on the growing need to replace chemical pesticides with biological control agents.

Most of the decay of fresh produce occurs during post-harvest after the fruit leaves the farmer to be handled, packaged, transported and stored. Typically, pesticides and fungicides are prohibited during post-harvest control, especially in the organic produce market.

The green technology uses essential oils as a natural biofumigant to control the decay of post-harvest fresh produce. The novel controlled release sheets are infused with major constituents of essential oils of lime, lemon and lemongrass that can replace the use of chemical fungicides.

The technology involves the incorporation and infusion of a mixture of those major constituents into a multilayer polymer sheet that permits a controlled release of its volatiles in combination with either modified atmosphere packaging or cold storage technologies.

The objective was to provide a controlled release composition comprising a polymer sheet onto which a volatile, which is as effective as a fumigant, has been absorbed.

Te currently-used sulphur dioxide based sheets are chemical fumigants that could carry residual toxins and expose the consumer to these toxins. The solution replaces these fumigants with something that is safe, environment-friendly and low-cost. CSIR is currently doing fields trials with the ARC and is considering commercialisation.

Find out more about the latest CSIR developments at

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