US patent for compostable container for storing fluids moves to application approval process

ATLANTA , December 26, 2012 () – A patent application by the inventors Tolibas-Spurlock, Cynthia (Burlingame, CA); Allred-Forsman, Bambi (Chehalis, WA); Moos, Darla Agnew-Von (Chehalis, WA), filed on August 20, 2012, was cleared for further review on December 20, 2012, according to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews correspondents.

Patent application serial number 590021 has not been assigned to a company or institution.

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Waste pollution is considered a serious threat in our modern age. A growing population leads to an increase in consumption and an increase in household waste, including containers and bottles. The waste stemming from such consumption negatively impacts our environment.

"A particular problem is the growing consumption of plastic containers for bottled water. Due to rising health concerns related to the quality of tap water in recent decades, an alarming rate of people have begun to consume bottled water. The discarded plastic water bottles are harmful to the environment. Not only do wasted plastic containers fill up our landfills, but they also frequently cause water contamination as they end up in water streams. Moreover, plastic water bottles and other plastic containers are petroleum-based products and as such are of a toxic nature, capable of harming not only a natural habitat, but also its inhabitants.

"The problem of water contamination as well as the sheer volume of consumption is particularly exhibited in the problematic nature of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, situated in the North Pacific Ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been formed substantially by plastic waste products, particularly plastic containers for bottled water. Samples taken from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2001 reveal that the mass of plastic waste exceeded that of zooplankton, which is the dominant animal life in the area.

"The plastic waste products encompassed by this enormous patch are subject to plastic photodegradation, which causes the plastic waste products to degrade into small toxic plastic polymers. Over time, the plastic polymers are broken down into smaller and smaller pieces. However, the polymers do not decompose into materials found in nature. These small toxic plastic polymers concentrate in the upper water column and are ultimately ingested by aquatic organisms which reside near the ocean's surface. Plastic waste thus enters the food chain. Furthermore, many larger aquatic animals, such as Orcas, consume the plastic waste during hunting activity, the consumption of which plastic waste is extremely harmful. The floating particles of plastic waste also frequently resemble zooplankton, which can lead to them being consumed by jellyfish, presenting another venue for entering the ocean food chain. Besides ingestion, other concerns caused by plastic waste ending up in water systems include the frequent entanglement of wildlife.

"The degradation of plastic waste also contaminates the air and the soil. As the plastic waste degrades, it can release toxic pollutants, such as greenhouse gases. As mentioned above, over time the plastic degrades into smaller and smaller toxic plastic particles, never returning to compounds found in nature.

"Landfills contain a tremendous amount of plastic waste. As the plastics degrade, the pollutants leach into the soil and the gases escape into the air. As a response to this threat, recycling has been introduced into the consumption cycle. Recycling generally involves processing used materials into new products. However, the processing of waste can be economically ineffective, as it entails various mechanisms, such as collecting the waste, sorting the waste according to provided specifications, and the final stage of processing the waste into materials that can be used in new products. Aside from the ineffective processes, recycling is not widely available in all communities, and if available, often is not mandatory. Thus, many individuals either do not have a convenient venue for recycling or simply choose not to recycle.

"Recycling has its disadvantages as well. The sorting and shipping of the plastic waste to the appropriate recycling facility is costly, both monetarily and environmentally. Different types of plastics must be recycled separately because the different types do not cooperate to form a stable reusable plastic. In addition, many plastics have a limited recyclable life. For example, recycling plastic water bottles can result in a lower grade plastic that can not be converted into a new plastic water bottle.

"Other methods of preventing pollution include the partial use of biodegradable material in plastic products. Certain auxiliary elements are made of biodegradable material and are then incorporated within the container, while the remainder of the container is substantially plastic based on petroleum. If these mixed products are included with other plastics for recycling, they can contaminate the product and render it unusable.

"A company by the name of BIOTA advertises that it uses a corn-based PLA (polylactic acid) to produce bottles for its water products. It states that such a water bottle can degrade within 75 to 80 days in commercial composting conditions. However, in order to degrade, the bottles need to be placed under specific industrial processing conditions, including being subjected to high heat, particular micro-organisms, and high moisture levels. Furthermore, elements such as the cap are not degradable. These bottles include elements that are not fully biodegradable under standard environmental conditions and they are also expensive. This creates a disincentive for consumers to switch away from petroleum-based plastic bottles.

"These products, also known as bioplastics, are biodegradable in commercial composting facilities that carefully monitor the temperature, pressure, and moisture levels. If such products are not correctly sorted by the consumer, and thus end up in an ordinary landfill rather than in a composting facility, they will not degrade for years. Due to the limited access to recycling by some consumers and the problems with recycling plastics in general, there is a need for a biodegradable water bottle that will decompose into nontoxic residues in ambient conditions."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent application, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "One advantage of the present invention is to provide a fluid storing container that is fully biodegradable, including all auxiliary components. Another advantage of the present invention is to provide low production costs reflected in the consequential price of the container, thereby creating an incentive for consumers to switch from the commonly used petroleum-based plastic bottles. The container fully biodegrades when exposed to standard environmental conditions or ambient conditions in a garden, on a lawn, in a compost bin, or when it is exposed to other outdoor weather conditions.

"According to an aspect of the present invention, a container has a body, a base, a mouth, and a cap, all of which are biodegradable. The body is made of a biodegradable plant fiber based structural material having an inner and an outer surface. The structural material is inexpensive and thus decreases production costs. The structural material provides a solid mechanical support for holding the fluid in the container. While mere contact with fluids does not initiate the disintegration of the biodegradable structural material, if directly exposed to fluids for an extended period of time, the structural material will begin to disintegrate. In order to prevent direct contact between the biodegradable structural material and the fluid in the container, a thin coating is provided on the inner surface thereof. The coating is made of a biodegradable film or sprayable resin that is substantially fluid repellant. The biodegradable film has a predetermined shelf life, such as six months, and during its shelf life is insoluble in fluids and temperature resistant, thus neither dissolving nor disintegrating. After its shelf life it will begin to biodegrade.

"The mouth and cap are made of a solid biodegradable material, such as potato starch. Although the mouth and cap are only occasionally in direct contact with the fluid in the container for a period of time, they embody biodegradable properties so that they have a predetermined shelf life, such as six months, and neither dissolve nor disintegrate during that time under standard conditions.

"Another advantage of the structural material is that when the container is exposed to natural, outdoor conditions, the biodegradable structural material accumulates substantial amounts of moisture. The moisture in turn affects the coating on the inner surface of the cardboard and accordingly rapidly increases degradation of the inner coating. Similarly, the moisture level absorbed by the structural material can increase the rate of degradation of the mouth and cap.

"The present invention eliminates the need for special high heat composting conditions and instead enables individuals to simply compost the containers for bottled water or other fluids in natural environmental conditions. In effect, individuals will be able to compost the present invention in their own backyard or garden. Since the present invention includes neither plastic nor a non-biodegradable polyester, greenhouse gas emissions originating from plastic or otherwise biodegradable waste are also diminished."

URL and more information on this patent application, see: Tolibas-Spurlock, Cynthia; Allred-Forsman, Bambi; Moos, Darla Agnew-Von. Compostable Container for Storing Fluids. U.S. Patent Serial Number 590021, filed August 20, 2012, and posted December 20, 2012. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=4879&p=98&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20121213.PD.&OS=PD/20121213&RS=PD/20121213

Keywords for this news article include: Patents, Climate Change, Global Warming, Greenhouse Gases.

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