Sierra Resins forms bioplastic venture using waste from fisheries

By Chris Hanson | January 16, 2014

Sierra Resins Inc. announced a new venture with Jason Bolton, a food safety specialist from University of Maine, to work on the development of next-generation bioplastics for the food services and food processing industry using fisheries waste material.

The waste stream materials will help us experiment with new polymer additives that can be mixed or compounded with other materials, such as polypropylene, to form injection moldable pellets, sheets and films, said John Tersigni, CEO of Sierra Resins. The company has different polymer formulas they call “recipes,” depending on the application and customer’s requirements, which are categorized as trade secrets.

“Bolton’s background in food safety requirements, food processing and quality control will provide us a level of confidence that our bioplastic products are safe to use in relationship to products that come into contact with food when testing outcomes show compliance. The fisheries waste stream could very well provide some answer in making our plastic materials more environmentally friendly,” Tersigni said.

Sierra Resins simulates a landfill environment in a laboratory within an aquarium-type tank. Inside the tank, bacteria is measured and the simulated leachate is combined with a compost mix that produces a “leachate-compost cocktail,” which is placed into separate jars containing specimens with Sierra Resins additives and a control group, Tersigni said. The samples are then placed into an environmentally-controlled chamber at roughly 128 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 percent humidity and removed periodically for customer data collection and observation. Some samples have been in the chamber for nearly two years, he added.  

Tersigni said the approach of the company is to formulate optimal sustainable solutions that are priced in response to what marketplace will accept.  “That’s where science and economics must come together. But science comes first, economic decisions follow, and then in the end the marketplace decides.”