Clemson Researchers' EarthBottle to Hit Stores Soon

Environmentally friendly bottles made almost entirely from plants will soon be showing up on store shelves filled with nutraceutical products. They will be followed by pharmaceutical, functional foods, and body-care products, according to a recent press release from Clemson University in South Carolina.

The compounded resin formula behind the "EarthBottle" is the brainchild of Clemson University employees Danny Roberts, researcher and assistant vice president of Public Service and Agriculture, and David Gangemi, director of the Institute for Nutraceutical Research. These natural polymer-fiber bottles are recyclable, biodegradable, petroleum-free and stronger, lighter than glass, and more durable than most other bottles. The materials have the potential to replace plastic for automotive parts, agricultural and industrial fabrics, and biomedical parts, among other applications.

The natural fibers are combined with polylactic acid, a plastic-like substance made from corn. The bottles are made by injection molding and injection blow-molding processes. Inhibitory agents rich in naturally occurring antioxidants and antimicrobial properties are added to protect the products inside the bottles.

"The concept of the EarthBottle is similar to that of the tissue scaffold used in biomedical engineering and regenerative medicine," Gangemi said. "Both products utilize organic substances to create a 'container,' which is biodegradable and has the physical, chemical, and antimicrobial properties needed for a specific use. Thus, the EarthBottle protects contents from spoilage and the scaffold provides an environment to encourage cells and tissue to regenerate. Neither product has a need for or dependency on petroleum or hydrocarbon sources."

The EarthBottle application and technology licensing efforts were developed in collaboration with Gaia Herbs Inc., a certified organic grower and manufacturer of botanical dietary supplements based in Brevard, N.C. Gaia is launching its ChiaFresh line of antioxidant chia fiber products in EarthBottles at ExpoEast in Boston in mid-October. Gaia Herbs is the research sponsor and co-developer of EarthBottles with Roberts and Gangemi.

"We are excited about the possibilities of this product," said John Kelly, vice president of Public Service and Agriculture at Clemson University. "The researchers have demonstrated how creativity at Clemson University results in meeting environmental and marketplace challenges."

Earth Renewable Technologies, a company formed by Roberts, Gangemi and Gaia, has acquired the commercial license from the Clemson University Research Foundation for the EarthBottle application. Patents are pending in the United States and in the European Union, China, and Brazil, among other countries. Earth Renewable Technologies' general manager is Greg Cumberford, an executive vice president at Gaia.

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