From: Kyodo News International, Tokyo
Published February 21, 2005 12:00 AM

Low-cost Technology for Environment-Friendly Plastic Developed

OSAKA — Osaka Gas Co. said Friday it and an ally have developed a low-cost manufacturing technology for a new environmentally friendly but highly heat-resistant plastic that can be recycled with a special type of bacteria.

Osaka Gas and the Numazu National College of Technology will seek to apply the high technology to production of plastic dining equipment, food-wrapping materials, garbage bags and other goods in two to three years, according to the major gas utility.

The plastic, called polyhydroxy butyrate, is generated when the bacteria eats methane, a common constituent of natural petroleum gas and biogas. In the process, the bacteria accumulate the plastic inside their microscopic bodies.

The type of plastic developed by Osaka Gas and the research ally based in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, has the property of resisting temperatures of more than 150 C because of its high polymerization degree.

The production cost for the highly polymerized plastic is one-third that incurred when polyhydroxy butyrate is made with conventional production technologies.

Japanese plastics makers annually manufacture a combined 15 million tons of conventional plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene, using petroleum as a main material.

The disposal of these conventional plastics tends to generate environmentally harmful substances.

An Osaka Gas official said, "The market for our plastic may grow to 300,000 tons a year in a decade."

To see more of Kyodo News International, go to (c) 2005, Kyodo News International, Tokyo. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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