The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa has won in the “Science and Innovation” category for its groundbreaking solutions in managing plastic waste.

CSIR is one of the five winners of the 2023 edition of the “Champions of the Earth” prize organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The award, now in its 19th year, recognizes pioneering leaders from government, civil society, academia, and the private sector for their transformative impacts on the natural world.

CSIR was recognized for its bioplastic technology, which produces plastic that is 100% biodegradable and compostable.

This technology enables the production of single-use plastic products that biodegrade within 180 days when disposed of in landfill sites.

When combined with organic waste, bioplastic products can be composted within 90 days, without leaving behind any toxic residues.

“Our bioplastic technology is based on the use of biopolymers and agricultural waste by-products, such as starch, cellulose, and glycerol,” explained Sudhakar Muniyasamy, a senior researcher at the CSIR.

“Through the intelligent use of additives, we have created unique formulations that can modify properties using a melt-processing technique.

“The result is granules that can be converted into carrier bag films, kitchen waste bags, mulch, packaging films, and rigid cutlery products.”

In addition, this technology can also assist players in the agricultural, medical, and hotel sectors who are seeking environmentally friendly packaging methods.

As well as developing innovative solutions to plastic pollution, the CSIR also offers technical assistance to stakeholders in the waste sector. This includes modeling solutions and implementing strategies to address plastic pollution.

Joining CSIR in winning the awards are Josefina Belmonte, the mayor of Quezon City (Philippines) for “Policy Leadership”, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (UK) for “Inspiration and Action”, the company Blue Circle (China) for “Entrepreneurial Vision”, and entrepreneur José Manuel Moller (Chile) also for “Entrepreneurial Vision”.

“As the negotiations to develop a legally binding international instrument on plastic pollution move forward, Champions of the Earth 2023 demonstrates that there are innovative solutions that can inspire us to rethink our relationship with plastic,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP in Nairobi, Kenya, when the results were announced.

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