Reno company develops biodegradable plastic

Credit cards, gift cards, library cards, ID cards, direct marketing cards, players cards, drivers license cards the plastics pile up.

Now a plastics company in Reno has developed a biodegradable rigid PVC for cards that will decompose within six months to five years.

The patent-pending formula was created by Reno Plastics, Inc.

"This is a major breakthrough for the plastic card industry," says Bob Clarke, vice president of sales for the Colorado-based CPI Card Group, a sister company to Reno Plastics

"It's a global plastic that's consumed at a very high level," says inventor and company President Paul Kappus, Jr., who developed the formula with co-inventor David Rodriguez, technical director.

Kappus started working on the project 25 years ago in answer to the durability problem of PVC. The breakthrough idea came when he was traveling in Alaska. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he observed cleanup workers wiping the rocks with paper towels after spraying a liquid. Assuming it was a detergent, he asked after the product brand.

The workman answered, "We were spraying it with bugs."

The spray was composed of micro-organisms trained to eat the oil off the rocks. While developing its formula, Reno Plastics conducted tests, adding it to PVC resin, which normally does not break down. However, when the product was viewed under a microscope after six months, it was breaking down.

After the micro-organisms dine, only carbon dioxide and water remains.

'We're just starting to market this to the PVC market," says Kappus. "We take the raw resin and we compound it into the final product, rigid PVC."

The generic PVC market is huge used primarily by the construction industry. But it's also a mainstay of the vinyl siding market, consumer product packaging and even fake Christmas trees.

"Even if we were 10 times our size, the market is beyond us," says Kappus. So he plans to license the process.

For now, "We target specifically the plastic printing market," he says.

However, he hopes the market will see the product's potential for other applications and will approach his company.

Reno Plastics, founded in 2000, employs 50 at its 155,000 square-foot facility. Although it currently runs a single production line, Kappus says the building capability is seven lines.


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