There is a way to make biodegradable plastic out of avocado seeds and a company based in Morelia, Mexico is doing it. Quite suitable since that’s the country where guacamole comes from! But that’s not why that specific agro-industrial waste got turned into straws and cutlery.
The idea came to Scott Mungia, the company founder, after analyzing a picture of the corn molecule used to make bioplastic. He was a chemical engineering student at the time just reading a paper, and at that moment, the idea was born.
When he saw that picture of the corn molecule, he realized it had a striking resemblance to an avocado seed molecule. Mungia explained, “I already knew what the avocado seed molecule looked like.” By putting one and one together, he figured out that it would be possible to make bioplastic with avocado the same way they were doing it with the corn.
The best part about the idea (which actually got him an award, it’s so good) is that since Mexico produces 300,000 pounds of avocados, or about 50% of the world’s supply, and all those avocados have seeds that get thrown away…it means there’s a lot of material there to be used and get turned into something useful. NowScience explains, “Avocado seeds pile up in Mexico like nowhere else in the world, and most end up being burned at landfill sites.”
It wasn’t exactly easy…he spent a year and a half looking for ways to extract a molecular compound from the avocado pit and obtain a biopolymer, which could then be molded into various shapes. Then, after two years of development, he built up his business called BIOFASE, which now consists of a team of 14 employees, and is poised to open a plant with a capacity of 700 tons a month very soon. As for now, they produce 130 tons of biodegradable plastic products at the Morelia plant every month.
Their products, which contain 70 percent biomass content, are extra strong, suitable for hot and cold food, and according to the brand, are the first to be made from fully renewable and sustainable sources.
According to NowScience, all their straws and cutlery will biodegrade after 240 days of being buried in the ground or exposed to the elements. That’s a lot better than the 450 plus years it takes for some plastic bottles to decompose; or even worse, the 10-1,000 years it can take for plastic bags to break down.
BIOFASE is helping to tackle plastic waste problems around the world as it exports 80 percent of its products to the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Columbia, and Perú. They would love to take their patented technology further, however, Mungia has discovered one major stumbling-block to the mass adoption of avocado-based plastics by consumers:
“People are still reluctant to pay more for [a product] that protects the environment.”
Hopefully, for the sake of our future, it will either get cheaper to produce such eco-friendly products, or people will realize that saving a few cents now will end up costing them in the long run.