U technology leads to biodegradable plastic bags

by Jeff Hargarten

Four University of Arkansas students have launched a new startup company based on technology developed by University of Minnesota biochemists, KARE 11 reports.

Simo Sarkanenen, a biochemist at the University’s Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, designed a lignin-based biodegradable plastic.

Photo courtesy of The Environmental Citizen

The students’ company, cycleWood Solutions, aims to manufacture biodegradable plastic shopping bags called the “XyloBag.” The company claims “that in 150 days our thermoplastic breaks down into humus, improving soil structure and leaving a cleaner environment.”

The four students came up with the idea for an entrepreneurship class, where they had to pitch a business idea. They ran across Sarkanen’s discovery and contacted the University of Minnesota‚Äôs Office for Technology Commercialization.

CycleWood was incorporated in Delaware this September and is looking for investors.

Its president and CEO, Nhiem Cao, said the bags would be offered at a “slightly higher price” than traditional plastic bags, but that they were still cheaper than alternative biodegradable products.

The company is exploring other uses for the technology, including plastic ammunition for airsoft guns and yard bags.