Principal investigator: Ronald Kander

University: Thomas Jefferson University

Industry partner: Pocono Organics

Demand for biodegradable plastics from non-petroleum sources has grown in recent years as consumers and businesses alike try to reduce their environmental impact. A major challenge with bioplastics is their limited mechanical and physical properties. Reenforcing such plastics to make composite materials is one promising way to make them viable for a range of consumer and industrial applications. Hemp biomass is a natural reinforcement material that can be incorporated into bioplastic to maintain a completely biodegradable composite. A biodegradable composite is of high desirability for injection molding single-use goods to replace petroleum-based single-use products.

In this project, we will work with Pocono Organics (PO) to optimize and scale up production of hemp/bioplastic composites based on our previous work with bioplastics. Hemp diverted from PO’s agriculture waste will be transformed into composite parts using laboratory-scale compounding and injection molding capabilities at Thomas Jefferson University. Then, we will work to translate the lab-scale process to PO’s manufacturing facilities. Representative parts will be selected from the food service industry (e.g., takeout containers, utensils) based on what PO currently utilizes at their restaurant. Resultant parts from these unique hemp-derived composites will then be tested to measure mechanical and physical properties in order to understand their performance.