Since polythene was invented in 1933, it has been widely used for bags, food packaging and bottles. However, it can take up to 100 years to degrade and, as a result, most of the polythene waste that has been thrown away is still sitting in landfill sites around the world.
Now Symphony Environmental has designed the first totally degradable polythene - d2w™. The European Union has approved the new material as safe to come into direct contact with food and Symphony is already using it to make bread bags, food freezer bags and packaging films. However, it is d2w™ bags and refuse sacks that will potentially make the biggest difference to waste disposal (it is estimated that they could reduce the amount of waste in landfill by 20 to 30%).
A unique aspect of the new material is that its manufacturers can control how long it takes to degrade and what triggers the degradation. So, for example, while a bread bag might degrade after just a few months, a refuse sack might have a life span of two years. Similarly, the material can be 'programmed' to degrade as a result of ultraviolet light, heat, oxygen or stresses (being pulled or teared). Once it does degrade, it leaves behind just small amounts of carbon dioxide, biomass and water.