Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, a Researcher at Univa in Mexico, is making a biodegradable plastic alternative from cactus leaves! This new material, made from juiced nopal cactus leaves and a non-toxic formula, can biodegrade in one month when left in soil and in just a few days when left in water.
Oritz envisions this new material to be a sustainable substitute for many of the single-use plastics we use today, such as cutlery and bags. Not only is it made from non-toxic, natural materials, it comes from renewable resources since the cactus plant stays alive in order to produce more leaves.
The material is also edible, although not necessarily tasty, so if it was ingested by humans or animals, it would not cause harm.
It currently takes about 10 days to make the cactus leaves into plastic in Oritz’s lab, but with industrial processes and machinery, she knows that this process could be sped up.
Though there’s still a lot to be done before we see cactus plastic cutlery, this is great progress.
Plastic pollution is a multi-faceted problem that needs a lot of different solutions, and we need sustainable packaging alternatives if we want to have a long-term solution to plastic use.