Czech firm receives prestigious award for developing technology to turn used cooking oil into bioplastic

Illustrative photo: Barbora Kmentová

The Czech company Nafigate Corporation has just been awarded a prestigious award for innovation in technology by Frost & Sullivan. Several years ago the firm licensed a patent developed by the Technological University in Brno for turning used cooking oil into bioplastic. The company is continuing to develop the system for large-scale commercial use, beneficial not only in cutting waste but also for providing biodegradable plastic in a number of fields.

Daniel Pohludka, photo: Nafigate
I spoke to Nafigate’s Daniel Pohludka about the project:

“There are two aspects: one is that there is a significant environmental benefit to transforming used cooking or waste oil. We are focusing on China because China has a huge problem with waste oil (although it is a problem elsewhere as well). There is about 15 million tons of waste oil per year. The second benefit is that we are turning waste into a bioplastic, so there is added-value. It is biodegradable.

“We are developing applications where biodegradability is important and China is a good market for that as well: we are working on so-called mulch film, plastic to cover crops in cold areas so they can grow. Currently, they use a petroleum-based film which is bad for the environment and reduces the fertility of fields. There is huge pressure to change to biodegradable.”

I gather that the waste oil is gathered from everywhere from food production plants to restaurants to households?

“Yes. In China they have a very developed system of collecting waste oil for several reasons, driven by the government because there is a huge black market with biodiesel and even worse was the reuse of used cooking oil which is very toxic and has ill effects. It is ideal for us, as we have a joint venture with a company to convert waste oil into something much more valuable.”

Illustrative photo: Barbora Kmentová
What are other fields where the bioplastic is beneficial?

“Well, there are train transit companies already packaging food items in bioplastic so that any litter which ends up on the tracks is biodegradable. There are also potential applications in the automotive industry.