Researchers at the KU Leuven Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis (Leuven, Belgium) have developed a process that eliminates a step in the production of polylactic acid (PLA) and reduces waste. The patent on the technology was recently sold to a chemical company that intends to apply the production process on an industrial scale.
PLA is derived from renewable sources, such as corn, and is industrially compostable and recyclable, if it is appropriately collected and sorted. Because it is biocompatible, the material has medical applications, and it is also one of the few materials that is suitable for 3D printing. Despite these desirable properties, uptake of the material as an alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics has been hampered because of the steep production costs.