Biodegradable containers support zero-waste initiatives when alternative end-of-life scenarios are available (e.g., composting, bio digestion). Thermoplastic starch (TPS) has emerged as a readily biodegradable and inexpensive biomaterial that can replace traditional plastics in applications such as food service ware and packaging. This study has two aims. First, demonstrate the thermoformability of starch/polycaprolactone (PCL) as a thermoplastic material with varying starch loadings. Second, incorporate biochar as a sustainable filler that can potentially lower the cost and enhance compostability. Biochar is a stable form of carbon produced by thermochemical conversion of organic biomass, such as food waste, and its incorporation into consumer products could promote a circular economy. Thermoformed samples were successfully made with starch contents from 40 to 60 wt.% without biochar. Increasing the amount of starch increased the viscosity of the material, which in turn affected the compression molding (sheet manufacturing) and thermoforming conditions. PCL content reduced the extent of biodegradation in soil burial experiments and increased the strength and elongation at break of the material. A blend of 50:50 starch:PCL was selected for incorporating biochar. Thermoformed containers were manufactured with 10, 20, and 30 wt.% biochar derived from waste coffee grounds. The addition of biochar decreased the elongation at break but did not significantly affect the modulus of elasticity or tensile strength. The results demonstrate the feasibility of using starch and biochar for the manufacturing of thermoformed containers.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


RIT – Main Campus