Canberra, August 14 : Organic chemists have developed a new coating from sugarcane, which can be used to make totally recyclable waterproof paper and cardboard containers.
According to a report by ABC News, the coating has been made by a team of organic chemists from the CRC for Sugarcane Innovation through Biotechnology in Brisbane, Australia.
The researchers said that the coating could replace wax and plastic coatings currently used on fruit boxes and food and drink containers.
"Wax-coated cardboard boxes, for example, used for packaging fruit aren't recyclable," said organic chemist, Les Edye.
Since conventional coatings like wax interfere with paper-making equipment, Edye and colleagues have developed a new coating from sugarcane lignin, which is the rigid, waterproof "cement" that helps give plants their structural strength.
In normal wood, pulping lignin is separated, leaving the flexible cellulose fibers from which paper is made.
The process chemically modifies lignin and changes its properties so it cannot be used as a coating.
"We have a different kind of process for separating the sugarcane into its component parts so that the lignin is still useful," said Edye.
The chemical process uses "green chemistry" and would not produce any waste.
The researchers have produced a light brown spray-on lignin coating and tested it on a number of paper samples. The coating has been found to be "functionally equivalent" to wax coatings, but with obvious benefits.
According to Edye, "It can be put back into the pulping process to make recycled paper."
"We also get the advantage of replacing a wax material from a petroleum resource, a finite resource, with biomass, a renewable resource," he added.