Most of us know that innovation sometimes arrives by chance instead of by choice. Take, for instance, the microwave, invented when a leading scientist Percy Spencer was visiting a lab at the Raytheon Company in 1945. Percy was testing a military-grade magnetron, and realized that a candy bar in his pocket had melted. But you may not have realized that a more recent “chance discovery” could be even more momentous, especially when it comes to the plastic industry.
That discovery is the “wax worm” (scientific name, Galleria mellonella) which turns out to have an appetite for polyethylene, the plastic used to make bottles, food containers and shopping bags, which Frederica Bertocchini only discovered because in addition to being a researcher for the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology at Cantabrai in Spain she is also an amateur beekeeper who found her hives infested with wax worms.
When she decided to put them in a shopping bag and throw away later, she discovered they had chewed holes through the bag and escaped. Bertocchini knew she was onto something so conducted a series of experiments, and published her results which could just be the secret to biodegrading polyethylene waste, which currently can take centuries to degrade.
At TEQ, we may not have been lucky enough to discover a new innovation for reducing plastic waste by chance, but we did make an unexpected discovery when working to make improvements to the transparency of our proprietary 100% recyclable solution TEQethylene™, a mono-polymer sterile barrier system utilizes a new proprietary blend of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) in combination with adhesive-coated TYVEK®, a breathable HDPE lidding material developed by Dupont™.
Our first efforts were only marginally successful, and added significant costs. Not satisfied, we brought together a group of experts including leading innovators in polypropylene such as Milliken to come up with a possible solution. During this session, we asked a simple question based on a product we’ve all seen and used, the “stay-fresh” bags in our cereal boxes made of co-extruded blown film. That question was, ”Why can’t we use a co-extruded heat seal layer in place of adhesive coating on the Tyvek® lidding?” - and the idea for TEQconnex™ was born.
Working with our partners at Belco Packaging and Technipaq, TEQconnex™ we developed this next evolution of TEQethylene, which now offers:
What about you? Have you made any chance discoveries in your business?