Prickly pear cactus paddles contain large amounts of sugars and gum, making them a good candidate to create “biopolymers”.
Today’s post is by Gayl Southard, Administrative Consultant at SafeSourcing, Inc.
The prickly pear is sometimes used as a novelty ingredient in margaritas, or in jelly for Arizona tourists. The microscopic barbs on the paddles can be very painful if you brush up against this cactus. Researchers at a university in Mexico have developed a way to turn the pulp from the paddles into a biodegradable plastic. This could not have come at a better time as plastic pollution has reached epic proportions. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a floating mass of plastic) is now larger than Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico combined!
Plastic breaks down and eventually is consumed by marine life. An autopsy of a washed up whale in the Philippines revealed 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach. Humans also ingest roughly 50,000 microscopic pieces of plastic each year.
Prickly pear cactus paddles contain large amounts of sugars and gum, making them a good candidate to create “biopolymers”. Corn has been used for a long time in creating polymer products to make biodegradable spoons and cups. Corn, however, leaves a big carbon footprint when you consider the water, fertilizer, and energy used to grow and harvest it. The prickly pear cactus, however, requires very little water. More research has to be done in order to bring this to market.
John D’Anna, AZ Central, 7/9/2019