Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain Cups, cartons and food wrappers made of paper might seem like they would be biodegradable, but many contain a plastic coating that can’t be composted. Although plastic-free, sustainable paper products are available, they often let grease and oil pass through, weakening the paper and creating a mess. Today, scientists report they have developed a degradable polymer coating that can block this seepage and could lead to new biodegradable, paper-based materials. The researchers will present their results at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). "Consumers are driving a push to more sustainable products," Matthew Carter, Ph.D., principal investigator on the project. "But making a fully degradable paper product for single-use applications—like the sandwich wrappers, bowls and trays you get at a cafeteria—is a big challenge," adds Carter, who is presenting the work at the meeting. Current oil- and grease-resistant coatings for disposable paper products often include fluorocarbons or polyolefins, but those polymers are environmentally persistent and can’t be composted. "One of the things that makes conventional polymers useful is their durability," says his fellow principal investigator, Andrew Hejl, Ph.D., who works with Carter at Dow. That toughness, which originates in the stable carbon-carbon […]

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