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    Rights: University of Waikato. All rights reserved.
    Published 23 July 2015 Referencing Hub media

    The Biopolymer Network and Barnes Plastics have combined forces to create ZealaFoam – an exciting biodegradable alternative to polystyrene.

    The bio-based foam is made from corn-based polylactic acid. ZealaFoam offers sustainable possibilities for packaging, particularly for the fish and aquaculture export industries, which need fish boxes to maintain their integrity throughout a 24–48 hour period.

    Scion-based scientist Stephanie Weal and Barnes Plastics General Manager Alan Brennan discuss the collaboration.


    The biopolymer network and barnes plastics have combined forces to create zealafoam – an exciting biodegradable alternative to polystyrene.

    Stephanie Weal
    So the zealafoam is a bio-based foam. So it’s made from polylactic acid, which is corn based. We’ve developed the impregnation stage, so putting the co2 into the pla or the polylactic acid. And then we use barnes’ equipment to prefoam and to model it.

    Alan Brennan
    The main possibilities are in the packaging side, which is predominantly in what we call fish boxes – anybody who exports fish, they’re looking for a product that can retain its integrity throughout a 24–48 hour period – and also the eco side of the product.

    Stephanie Beal
    A renewable front end, and it’s also renewable at end of life, so you can recycle it. So you bring it back down to its base polymer, and you can commercially compost it, so it will degrade back down to carbon and oxygen.

    With investment from barnes plastics and international commercial partners, the biopolymer network is tackling the challenge of scaling up clever science to commercial application.

    Stephanie Weal
    There has been an acceleration to commercialise, because we’ve done trials around new zealand before, and actually around the world, but working with barnes, it’s a lot more communication.

    Alan Brennan
    Things can be done on a lab scale, but trying to make it work in a production sense is the challenge.

    Stephanie Weal
    In the lab, grams. And you come here and you do kilograms or tonnes, so it’s a different scale altogether.

    Alan Brennan
    And we’re trying to take a new product and develop it into a commercialised product. And that’s a first for new zealand. If we’ve got an environmentally friendly product, that gives us a competitive advantage in the commodity market. From new zealand’s point of view, it’s really showing the expertise that we’ve always shown in whatever market we want to be in. We are inventive people, and we don’t give up easily.

    Stephanie Weal
    We do export a lot into other markets, so there is demand from america and europe to be more sustainable. So that’s one of the driving forces, and for us to be a leader in that will be amazing.

    Video courtesy of Kiwi Innovation Network Limited
    © Kiwi Innovation Network Limited, 2015