New research conducted by the Ohio State University has helped develop a biodegradable alternative to plastic using natural rubber and bioplastic.

The material can be used for food packaging and will allow companies to reduce their environmental footprints.

During the study, rubber was melted into poly 3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate (PHBV) along with organic peroxide and trimethylolpropane triacrylate (TMPTA).

The resulting solution is 75% tougher and 100% more flexible than PHBV.

According to the research team, the rubber-toughened plastic is derived from microbial fermentation and will function like conventional plastic.

The research was funded by the Center for Advanced Processing and Packaging Studies.

The study’s lead author Xiaoying Zhao noted that other attempts to produce a similar product had reduced the strength of the PHBV by 80%, while the current study saw that only 30% of strength was lost.

Zhao added: “Previous attempts at this combination were unsuccessful because the softness of the rubber meant the product lost a lot of strength in the process.”

“The resulting solution is 75% tougher and 100% more flexible than PHBV.”

The researchers are also considering exploring the potential use of a bioplastic in additional food-related applications such as utensils and cutting boards.

The team will also work with colleagues outside of food science to explore the use of their product in applications such as developing building materials, gloves for food service, and parts for cars and aeroplanes.

Ohio State University food science professor Yael Vodovotz said: “As we get closer and closer to working with food manufacturers, there are specific questions our potential partners are asking.

“We have to be very careful about what we use in this process in order to meet their needs, and they have very specific parameters.”