Images of Research Competition

People’s Choice Award Winner and Judges’ Choice Award Winner for Images of Research Competition, 2021.

“Can Bio-Based Materials Replace Single-Use Plastics?

The world has experienced thousands of years of humans making natural materials. Synthetics, however, have only existed for approximately 170 years, yet they have already caused incomprehensible damage to the health of our natural environments. In fact, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic waste leaks into our oceans every year.

Over the past century, we have grown to rely on plastic due to its versatility and practicality. However, if we can improve the current environmental situation through replacing crude oil-based plastics with bio- based materials, we must do so. But there are issues here. Bio-based materials tend to have a shorter lifespan – a lack of waterproofness leads to permeability and biodegradation (decreased physical functionality) – and the general perception that these materials are unsterile and unhygienic (decreased emotional durability). So, how can the permeability of bio-based materials be reduced to increase functional capability and encourage acceptance of them for everyday objects?”