A fact-finding team of American scientists and engineers visited Japan to assess the status of research and development and applications in biodegradable polymers. The visit was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and industry. In Japan, the team met with representatives of 31 universities, government ministries and institutes, companies, and associations.
Japan's national program on biodegradable polymers and plastics evaluates new technologies, testing methods, and potential markets for biodegradables. The program is coordinated by the Biodegradable Plastics Society of Japan, which seeks to achieve world leadership in biodegradable polymer technology and identify commercial opportunities for exploiting this technology.
The team saw no major new technology breakthroughs. Japanese scientists and engineers are focusing on natural polymers from renewable resources, synthetic polymers, and bacterially-produced polymers such as polyhydroxyalkanoates, poly(amino acids), and polysaccharides. The major polymers receiving attention are the Zeneca PHBV copolymers, Biopol (R), poly(lactic acid) from several sources, polycaprolactone, and the new synthetic polyester, Bionolle (R), from Showa High Polymer. In their present state of development, these polymers all have major deficiencies that inhibit their acceptance for large-scale applications.