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Microcellular Foaming Bioplastic Cup

Microcellular foaming using CO2 produces cups with superior characteristics from recyclable, compostable, sustainable bioplastic materials.

Photo of Shinji Fujioka
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Idea Title

Next-Gen Microcell Plastics

Idea Summary

Conventional foamed plastics are ecologically destructive. Microcellular foamed plastics made of plant-based materials offer the same outstanding characteristics while being completely biodegradable.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

PLASTECO Corporation

Website (if applicable)

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. (required)

Conventional foamed plastics have useful characteristics but are ecologically destructive.  The raw materials are petroleum based, non-biodegradable, and the foaming agents are toxic. To eliminate these drawbacks, PLASTECO developed a process using 100% biodegradable plant-derived materials and nitrogen or CO2 as the foaming agent.

 Microcellular foaming with precision controlled bubble size—a huge technological challenge—is the secret. It achieves better insulating performance, greater strength, easy moldability, a nicer feel, and reduces raw material costs—the main barrier to widespread use. If supplied to Starbucks, economies of scale would reduce material costs to a competitive level.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • All of the Above

How is your concept recoverable?

The raw materials used for bioplastics are recyclable biomass such as cassava or maize. The containers and materials used for biomass transport can also be recycled. The result is greater sustainability.

How have you incorporated additional sustainability attributes (beyond recoverability) into your solution?

The raw materials — such as PLA (Poly Lactic Acid) — are not derived from petroleum and have already been verified for biodegradability and sustainability. The blowing agents used for foaming also reduce the carbon footprint compared with all other methods.

What regions do you plan to address with your solution (and how will you accomplish this)?

We envision global application of our technology, with the priority as follows: (1) Locations where disposable plastics are regulated or face regulation (2) Locations where there is high environmental awareness (3) Locations where there is dissatisfaction with present non-plastic alternatives

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

Our main target market is where traditional foamed styrene products were used for their heat insulation, heat retention, rigidity, water resistance and light weight for disposable containers, dishes and packaging materials. Users of such products want a substitute that provides the same convenience but would like to continue using plastic that is eco-friendly. Such people include: (1)Manufacturers desiring sustainable and recyclable low cost products. (2)Consumers who want the same convenience provided by foamed styrene products. (3)Disposal companies who can easily compost the foamed product, which has a higher decomposition rate than solid bioplastics, thus reducing costs.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Prototyping
  • Piloting

What are the biggest challenges you are facing today? What are existing gaps in your solution?

The facilities used in the development stage are completely different from those used for actual mass production because of the great difference in production scale. For this reason, samples should be produced by equipment close to that which would be used in mass production facilities. Such samples are indispensable for market verification, but constructing the necessary facilities requires funding and a location. Even if it is only a pilot plant, a supply contract for a fixed duration is required in order to justify construction.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Product / Industrial Design and Prototyping
  • Growth and Scaling
  • Fundraising / Finance

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

PLASTECO was founded 11 years ago to develop eco-friendly plastic products. Its founder has researched plastics for over 25 years and holds a number of patents. Present staff includes specialists in polymer chemistry and chemical engineering.

In what city are you located?


In what country are you located?


What is your legal / organizational structure? (if applicable)

Japan(C) Corporation

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

Our basic research has already been completed. We are ready to begin manufacturing at a pilot plant. Becoming a Top Idea will provide certification of the concept and facilitate funding of such a plant by exposing us to interested investors. Working with consortium partners would provide an invaluable perspective on all aspects of the market and help us customize specific product characteristics as required.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • In the news


Join the conversation:

Photo of Koldun Victor

An ordinary cardboard cup breaks down in the natural environment roughly in a year or thereabout. Approximately how the fallen leaves does, consisting of the same cellulose. In order for the new material for the production of cups to become a cost effective replacement of cardboard, it should decompose order faster, somewhere in a month, maybe two or three. This is at an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius (according to NASA). But when we pour water near a boiling point, at a temperature of 95 degrees, into such cup , according to the rule of Svante August Arrhenius, all the chemical processes in it, including the self-decay of complex molecules, respectively, accelerate. The minimum acceleration will be somewhere 250 times, and the maximum will be about 65,000 times. That is, for a disposable cup that has been filled for at least an hour, and this is a real situation somewhere on a picnic, there is all the chances to pour out their content on the table at best , at worst, on himself or his electronic devices. Even if this cup was made a few days before that and was stored in a stock in perfect conditions.
Therefore, the question arises - how do you deal with such issue?

Photo of Shinji Fujioka

I feel that you are familiar with the properties of PLA. Our foam products can be applied not only to PLA but also to any other plastic.
For example, it is possible to make foam cup of PBS which is heat resistant with biodegradable resin.
In this case he will enjoy a hot coffee on a picnic.

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