Japan working on development of marine biodegradable plastics
Fukusuke Kogyo has manufactured a wide variety of products, including synthetic resin, laminate and food packaging products. But it did not have sufficient know-how in biology.
The company thus enlisted Kenichi Kasuya, a Gunma University professor and expert on marine biodegradation, to further its research with his support.
“The professor’s research area included biodegradable fishing nets and his knowledge was just what we were looking for,” Fukusuke Kogyo Director Teruyuki Ono said.
The joint research progressed quickly over about a period of two years. Fukusuke Kogyo applied for certification of its product to Tuv Austria, a private-sector body that has the strictest standards among organizations issuing certifications related to marine biodegradability. Fukusuke Kyogyo says the product has cleared the requirement that “at least 90 percent of it has to biodegrade within six months in seawater at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius.”
Although there is concern that the certification schedule may be slowed by the global spread of coronavirus, the company plans to release the product as soon as it is certified.
To support research and development efforts and products like Fukusuke Kogyo’s, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2019 completed a road map for the promotion of development and introduction of marine biodegradable plastics.
The ministry came up with a policy of promoting efforts to develop new marine biodegradable resins and stimulate demand for such products. It also aims to support research and development of innovative materials, including discovery of new microorganisms and adding new biodegradable performance control capabilities.
Industry insiders involved in marine biodegradable plastics have expressed particular interest in an initiative to put Japan at the forefront of efforts to establish international standards, which will ensure quality and performance of such products and help form a sound market.
In Japan, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and the Japan BioPlastics Association are leading an initiative to propose a set of standards to the International Organization for Standardization.
A system of evaluation that can vouch for performance, once established, is expected to enhance international competitiveness of businesses and help promote innovation and support market expansion.