Wheelie bins and plastic dolls may be made from discarded banana plants in future, as a study at Queens University Belfast tests to see if its natural fibres can be used to make plastic.
The Polymer Processing Research Centre at the university is taking part in a €1 million study known as the Badana project. It will develop new procedures to incorporate by-products from banana plantations into the production of rotationally moulded plastics.
Banana plants will be provided by plantations in the Canary Islands where 20 per cent of Europes bananas are produced and 25,000 tonnes of banana by-products go to waste each year once the fruit has been harvested. The project will, in turn, increase the profitability of plantation owners and help job security.
Rotational moulding manager at the Polymer Processing Research Centre in Queens School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Mark Kearns said: This new technique will have substantial environmental benefits. It will hopefully result in a substantial reduction in the amount of polyehthylene used in the rotational moulding process, ushering in a new and more sustainable era in the production of rotationally moulded plastics. The research and development of this new approach will help create jobs and the banana plantations will ultimately benefit financially from the sale of the remains of millions of harvested banana plants which would otherwise go to waste.
Natural fibres in the plants may be used to produce plastics, which are used to make oil tanks, wheelie bins, water tanks, traffic cones, plastic dolls and many types of boats. The fibres are processed, treated and added to a mixture of plastic material, which is then sandwiched between to thin layers of pure plastic to create high quality structural properties.
Mr Kearns added: The project gives a whole new meaning to banana sandwich.