SEOUL -- Eco-friendly plates made of marine algae byproducts will hit the market in March in South Korea, which strengthens environmental regulations and nurtures a white biotechnology industry to develop eco-friendly replacements for plastics and other non-degradable materials. Seaweed-based products are 100 percent biodegradable within 90 days and durable.
Marine Innovation, a social venture supported by SK Innovation, uses marine algae to produce biodegradable products. Its seaweed by-product pulp can reduce raw material costs by 30 percent and energy use by 80 percent. As chemicals are not used during production, Marine Innovation's products can be used as eco-friendly alternatives in other areas.
In January, Marine Innovation's egg tray won an award from the World Packaging Organization, based in Austria, which recognizes outstanding packaging. "It is meaningful in that our eco-friendly packaging technology has been recognized worldwide," Marine Innovation CEO Cha Wan-young said in a statement released by SK Innovation on February 10.
Marine Innovation said seaweed-based trays are stronger than paper trays because of the narrow bonding gap. In March, the company will release two types of plates made in the shape of scallops and fan shells and supply them to hotels, resorts, and restaurants. Eco-friendly cups coated with chitosan would be released in July.
The accumulation of plastic wastes has become a serious global problem. South Korea has stepped up research into bioplastics. Disposable plastic cups can be replaced with bioplastic ones made of starch. Industry experts suggest the market's demand and distribution networks for biodegradable bioplastics must be established before commercialization kicks into full gear in order to popularize degradable bioplastics.
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