Zeoform: Bye bye plastic?

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What if plastic could be made without using fossil fuels and toxic chemicals? An Australian company has done just that, with a new type of plastic that can turn hemp fiber into pretty much anything.

Zeoform is a promising eco-friendly solution to traditional plastics. It’s made from a simple mixture of plant fiber (specifically cellulose) and water. What’s more, unlike plastic, Zeoform is compostable.

Hemp, along with flax and straw, are ideal for making Zeoform because of their high cellulose content. But it can be made from recycled paper and textiles too.

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Zeoform CEO Alf Wheeler says the product is highly durable, relying on the natural process of hydrogen bonding that occurs when cellulose fibers are exposed to water. The bond that is created is so strong that no glue is required.

The final material can be sprayed or molded into almost any shape, ranging from furniture and automobile parts to jewelry and musical instruments.

The company currently operates out of a small factory in Australia. But with such versatile applications, Wheeler says the hope is to license the patented technology to larger manufacturers.

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Not only is Zeoform a greener alternative to plastic, but Wheeler sees the potential for replacing natural materials like wood as well.

“There’s a lot of paper-making towns with lots of unemployed people,” Wheeler explained to Fast Company.

“They already have the infrastructure in place to make this material. All they need is some intellectual property and a relatively cheap retrofit to their mill, and they can put people back to work.”

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