Research combats plastic

2019-02-13 06:01
Dr Julia Mofokeng

Dr Julia Mofokeng

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Dr Julia Mofokeng, a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of the Free State’s Qwaqwa campus (UFS), is doing research to combat the damage plastic does to the environment.

The aim of her investigation of the morphology and properties of polymer blends, composites, and nanocomposites is to find a product that causes less harm than the non-biodegradable plastics commonly used for short shelf life and disposable products.

Although some efforts have been made to recycle plastic bottles and packaging material, Mofokeng believes these have no significant impact.

“Up to 40% of plastics produced annually are used by the packaging industry and end up in landfill sites. Our landfills are full of non-biodegradable, petroleum-based materials,” she says.

“Wind moves plastic into the vicinity of our wildlife, where animals mistake it for food. This results in diminishing wildlife, since animals cannot digest plastics.

“Other such plastics end up in our aquatic environment, polluting the water and endangering marine life as well,” says Mofokeng.

But it doesn’t end there, she explains.

“During the incineration of these petroleum-based plastics, harmful gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, dioxins, and furans – all major atmospheric polluters – are released.”

According to Mofokeng, not much has been done about biodegradable polymer blends that are compatibilised and reinforced with inorganic nanofillers.

“Only recently, researchers became aware of a process to improve the product that can be used for packaging, as well as replacing polystyrene serviceware, single-use crockery, cutlery, and nappies,” she says.

“It can also be used in aerospace and automotive industries for interior parts. Since these products can be composted or recycled, disposal is not such a big problem.”

Mofokeng’s research, which pivots around preparing completely biodegradable polymer blends and blend nanocomposites, has been presented at 14 local and international conferences. She has published 12 articles in specialised peer-reviewed journals.

“Our aim is to save energy and raise environmental awareness,” she says.

“I hope to empower and prepare postgraduate students for the research world.”

NEXT ON NEWS24X

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.