Several million tonnes of plastic waste pollute the environment every year, and disposable or single-use plastic is a significant contributor to the problem. In response, a student from Gothenburg in Sweden has been able to find the solution to the problem with “Potato Plastic”, an environmentally-friendly, biodegradable alternative to the use of disposable plastic in the fast-food industry – anything from cutlery to straws.
Behind the invention is Pontus Törnqvist, 24, winner of the Swedish leg of the 2018 prestigious James Dyson Awards. This is the first time the award has run in Sweden.
Potato Plastic consists only of potato starch and water. It is heated until the liquid thickens, then placed in moulds and heated to solid. The resulting material is a kind of thermoplastic – a plastic created by heating which hardens when cooled – meaning that it is mouldable, and can be shaped into any form. For the fast-food industry, from cutlery and straws to salt and pepper bags. Because Potato Plastic is made of only naturally-occurring substances, the products take just two months to decompose.
Originally from Gothenburg, Pontus Törnqvist studies Industrial Design at Lund University. As Swedish National Winner of the James Dyson Award 2018, he receives 22,000 SEK to develop Potato Plastic – and a chance to win the international final of the competition.
Says Törnqvist: “A large part of the plastic that comes into the environment comes from the fast-food industry. We need better options! Potato Plastic comes from the ground and can be composted without harm to nature. The idea can also be adapted to other countries and to what crops they grow there.”
Potato Plastic now progresses to the next stage of the James Dyson Award, where Pontus Törnqvist will compete against entries from 26 other countries around the world.
“The breadth and ambition of the entries we have seen this year is outstanding,” said Peter Gammack, Dyson’s vice-president of design and new technology. “Young engineers are restless in the face of global issues and they see technology as a catalyst for creating a better future. They demonstrate how simple, ingenious concepts have the power to revolutionise the way people live.”