Biopolymeric microbeads as alternatives to synthetic plastics
Biopolymeric beads can be used as alternatives to synthetic microplastics that have recently been taken out of production by many healthcare and cosmetic industry players as a result of governmental regulations. We have recently reported an innovative technique for biopolymeric beads preparation from chitin and cellulose involving ionic liquids (ILs) via initial dissolution of the biopolymers in the IL followed by rapid stirring in a coagulation bath. Chitin beads possess a large specific surface area of 24.93 m²/g, suggesting their micro- and mesoporosity which could make them suitable delivery vehicles for a variety of uses as sustainable, biodegradable, non-toxic, and biocompatible materials. Recent establishment of Mari Signum Mid-Atlantic, LLC as an industrial-scale chitin processing facility and thus large-scale and stable, consistent supply of chitin translates into a very exciting opportunity for scaling up this technology and aligns closely with the Societal need to remove plastics from the environment.
UNFORTUNATE FATE OF PLASTIC MICROBEADS
In recent years, research surrounding plastic of micro-scaled size (microbeads, spherical solid particles that range from 5 µm to 1 mm in diameter (1) has seen a particular increase, following the dramatic spike in ‘microbead’ usage as exfoliating or teeth-cleaning agents, personal care products (2), and products for biomedical research as embolic- or drug-delivery vehicles (3, 4). The exact composition of the microbeads depends on the particular application and various polymers have been used for their production, - yet most are non-biodegradable synthetic plastics (e.g., poly(lactic acid), poly(glycolic acid), poly(ε-caprolactone)) (5, 6). Since recently, plastics, especially plastic microbeads, have become the subject of increasing environmental concern: the amount of microplastics passing into the marine ecosystem only from cosmetic products is estimated to be as high as 35,000 tons/year (7). These beads were produced (until 2015) by personal care and cosmetics companies (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Shiseido Co. Beiersdorf)) which constituted a fast-growing $2.3 bill ...