The Italian scientists have found a novel way to turn waste from rice, parsley and other foods into biodegradable plastic.

Athanassia Athanassiou, Ilker S Bayer and colleagues at the Italian Institute of Technology turned to an organic acid that also occurs naturally and can process cellulose.

It is the main building component of plants and also the most abundant polymer in nature.

They mixed the acid with parsley and spinach stems, and husks from rice and cocoa pods. Then, they poured the resulting solutions into lab dishes. When tested, the films that formed showed a promising range of traits from brittle and rigid to soft and stretchable - similar to commercial plastics.

"This opens up possibilities for replacing some of the non-degrading polymers with the present bioplastics obtained from agro-waste," Athanassiou said.

The method can help the world deal with its agricultural and plastic waste problems, said the paper that appeared in the journal Macromolecules.

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