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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Inititiating a Baseline Lengua Franca on Bioplastics

We are responding to multiple questions in one post. African markets are still developing and publicly available industrial data is limited so we have used some public data from foreign counterparts. We selected data that aligns with local capabilities and can help shape the formation of a Kenyan bioplastics industry (aka community of practice). 

Q: We want to chat with CSTI but first we want to be conversant on what we should ask you for help with. Can you help with biodegradation and what issues should we be thinking about?

Yes we can. We have support from the University of Nairobi's Chemistry Department which includes an analytical chemistry laboratory. If you are examining biodegradation at the microbial/synthetic biology level, we are also supported by University of Nairobi's Centre for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics (CEBIB). 

This article from the Arabian Journal of Chemistry has a good summary of the biodegradation issues to consider. 

Production of biodegradable plastic from agricultural wastes (2018)

A glimpse at CSTI research capabilities:

In addition to being a globally recognised expert in climate change research, Prof Wandiga is a member of the British Royal Society of Chemists and has extensive experience with chemical toxicity evaluation as well as electrochemical analysis. 

Synthesis, characterisation and ion-binding properties of oxathiacrown ethers appended to [Ru(bpy)2]2+. Selectivity towards Hg2+, Cd2+ and Pb2+† (2018)

Prof Onyari is a globally recognised polymer chemist with project experience in biodegration of polymers

Biodegradability of Poly (lactic acid), Preparation and Characterization of PLA/Gum Arabic Blends (2008 - Abstract only)

Q: How do I know what type of bioplastic I should produce?

Start by understanding the eco-system of the plastics industry. Bioplastics are a substitute for existing petroleum based plastics. Hence, you need to deliver the same functionality and cost effectiveness of existing plastics. From this functional baseline you can then wow the world with transformative innovation (innovation that improves health and well-being) such as biodegradable plastics that can be used as agricultural fertilisers.  

This EU report will help you understand the current market landscape. 

Plastics – the Facts 2017 - PlasticsEurope

You can see from the EU report that the plastics world is divided into two "species: thermoplastic and thermoset. Note that newer plastics follow this "family tree." 

PHA (Polyhydroxyalkanoate)plastics can be either thermoplastic or thermoset 

Everything You Need to Know About PHA (2017)

PLA plastics are thermoplastic

Everything You Need To Know About Polylactic Acid (PLA) (2015)

Based on our research experience, literature on agriwaste bioplastic feedstock for PLA tends to be easier to find on public repositories. Showcasing Kenyan researchers abroad, here is an abstract on issues to consider with PLA. Hopefully gives you insight on what to think about regarding bioplastic functionality. 

Biodegradable and tough pla-cellulose based composites via stereo-complexation (2017)

Q: What are the low hanging fruit if I want to start a circular economy business using waste plastic? 

Recycling plastic (creating new plastic or new plastic products from plastic waste) and Energy (liquid fuels being the easiest) 

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has an initiative recycling PET plastics. The initiative is called PET Recycling Company Ltd (PETCO).

If your company/start-up is still too small to join KAM, do not despair. Here are examples of how Kenyan SMEs are building up and there is plenty of waste plastic to be used, even after the ban on single use plastic bags. KAM's goal is 70% recycling by 2030 which means there is 30% micro-entreprises can pursue, not to mention there is still 100% of plastics that are not PET available for recycling.

HDPE plastics are likely to be the best for waste to energy (pyrolysis) when compared to LDPE, PP, PS and PET. 

A Comparative Study on Waste Plastics Pyrolysis Liquid Products Quantity and Energy Recovery Potential (2017)

Before you stop breathing because you have no clue where to find waste HDPE plastics, relax, they are everywhere...

For Youth: There is no need to call your parents crying that you spent years in school studying science and cannot find a professional job in Kenya. You now have the basic information you need to start a company with your friends. 

For Everyone Interested in a Bioplastics Business in Kenya: Now that you have a common language to use when you ask questions, feel free to give us a call or send us a note with questions on how you can develop bioplastics to improve #BiologicalSafety and #BiologicalLuxury

+254 735 200 458 

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