Katrina Khairudin, Malaysia finalist

Katrina studied for four years at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) for a degree in Materials Engineering. In an effort to make a difference and as a contribution to the environment, she focused on the devleopment of eco-friendly materials. Her research paper was about developing a new environmentally friendly material, a blend of biodegradable polymers for food packaging and plans to pursue and research deeper into the subject.

Katrina has always been passionate about nature and loves spending her free time outdoors. She enjoys interacting with people, meeting new friends and is active debater for USM’s English Debating Society.

 

Biodegradable polymers

Space for landfill sites is increasing faster than for homebuilding. Now waste is even filling up roadsides, rivers and seas. In just a few years, the average waste produced per capita has increased significantly. Food waste, paper, packaging, plastic bags and bottles are the most common waste to be disposed of in a domestic household.

Waste becomes a problem as it does not break down easily, especially plastics. Many people encourage recycling but there are problems that can make it unfeasible. The solution to the problem is to find an alternative to replace plastics in daily use. Research is ongoing into biodegradable polymers which are a proven replacement.

However, these materials have poor properties in their natural form. Hence they need to be blended with other plastics to enhance their required properties and suppress the unwanted ones. Though it may have its downside, the biggest plus is the fact that they are generated by biological systems rather than from crude oil, can be degraded in compost, and also produce a variety of properties as good as the diversity of plastics.

With some products already in the market, the challenge is to expand the diversity of biopolymers and convince people that these green plastics are just as good as conventional ones.

 

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