Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Blood-based plastic a green bonus

Darren Harpur (left) and Dr Johan Verbek with the bioplastic pellets. Photo / Supplied
Darren Harpur (left) and Dr Johan Verbek with the bioplastic pellets. Photo / Supplied

Making plastic out of dead animals might seem slightly gruesome but it could turn out to be a real money-spinner for one Kiwi start-up.

Hamilton-based Aduro Biopolymers has devised a method for making bio-plastic out of blood meal, a byproduct of the freezing works process.

And the company, which was spun out of the University of Waikato, is focused on taking its lead product, Novatein, to market within the next three to four years.

Acting chief executive Darren Harpur said the manufacturing process involved adding water and various agents to the blood meal - sourced from rendering companies - that altered its protein structure.

The "slurry" then goes into an extruder that processes it into plastic granules that will be sold as Novatein.

The product offers an alternative to regular plastics made from petrochemicals.

It is the result of years of research at the University of Waikato led by chemical engineer Johan Verbeek.

Harpur said Aduro's business model did not involve the company going any further than making the granules.

Instead, manufacturers will purchase Novatein and mould it into plastic products such as trays, containers and clips used in the horticultural industry.

Aduro secured investment from Wallace Corporation, one of the country's biggest animal rendering firms, in February.

Harpur wouldn't disclose how much was invested but said Wallace Corporation now held a 45 per cent stake in the company, with the balance being owned by WaikatoLink, the University of Waikato's technology transfer organisation.

Aduro had also formed a co-funding partnership with Meat & Livestock Australia, a producer-owned firm that delivers marketing and R&D services for cattle, sheep and goat farmers across the Tasman - through which a Novatein product for the Australian market will be developed, he said.

The company plans to establish a manufacturing facility in Australia and commercialise the product in that country by 2016 or 2017.

Harpur said Aduro, which is looking to develop a suite of products, hoped to set up a plant in New Zealand shortly after that.

Novatein could be produced more cheaply than other bioplastics made from plant material, he said, with a kg expected to sell for around $2.50 to $3.50.

Harpur said that while Novatein was more expensive than some regular plastic products, which can sell for less than $2 a kg, it solved problems for its users.

For example, strawberry farmers using the bioplastic to cover their plants wouldn't need to spend time gathering up the material after the harvest as it's biodegradable.

Aduro is a finalist in the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards.

- NZ Herald

Biopolymer pellets can turn waste from freezing works into biodegradable products for horticulture.

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