Once a symbol of the genius of human invention for their many uses and their durability, plastics have become synonymous with waste products that are harmful to the environment. Are plastics a necessary burden for today's society? Should we stop using them altogether? Paul Boudreault, President and founder of Bosk Bioproducts, is banking on a better solution: compostable bioplastics made from renewable resources.
Paul Boudreault has dedicated his life to the environmental sciences. After 30 years of experience studying the environment, sustainable development and the repurposing of industrial and municipal by-products, he took on his next challenge: tackling the problems related to plastic waste.
"I founded Bosk Bioproducts in 2016 to develop and manufacture eco-friendly plastic products. Our mission is to market products that are fully compostable, GMO-free, non-toxic, and made from the renewable by-products of the pulp and paper industry," said Paul Boudreault.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (or PHAs) are biodegradable polyesters produced naturally by fermentation. The PHAs that Bosk Bioproducts have developed are created when microorganisms feed on the organic waste of the pulp and paper industry.
He started by working with the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Quebec to develop the technology used in the fermentation and extraction of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) from paper residue. However, several difficulties arose when they tried transforming their new material into products using processes developed for traditional plastics. That is when he turned to the NRC experts in Boucherville for help, notably Nathalie Chapleau and the Polymer Bioproducts team. The NRC has deep-seated expertise in the development of innovative materials with over ten years of experience in the characterization and transformation of bioplastics. Bosk Bioproducts chose to work with the NRC to develop blends and alloys.
"Our goal with Bosk was to design different formulations to produce eco-efficient plastic products that would perform as well as traditionally manufactured plastics. We've managed to produce excellent prototypes using injection moulding, extrusion, thermoforming and blown film" explains Nathalie Chapleau.
Compostable plastics are designed to start biodegrading only in composting conditions. The micro-organisms in the compost heap will break down the material into a mixture of carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass. This will occur at the same rate as the other organic materials in the compost heap and leave no toxic residues.
The result: The team has managed to develop a series of novel formulations to manufacture different types of compostable plastic products, with the material properties adapted to the product's use. Bosk plans to market these new eco-products and is looking at different markets such as packaging, cosmetics containers and filaments for 3D printing.
Can these new products made of eco-responsible materials help plastics regain their status as a boon to society? Paul Boudreault is committed to making it so.
"Working with the NRC these last months, we have made remarkable progress. It's no longer a matter of believing in it, we have made it. Now, we are off to conquer new markets," says Boudreault with enthusiasm.