The Age of Green Plastics May Be Coming Soon

| July 8, 2002

The Age of Green Plastics May Be Coming Soon

The next time you toss that week's worth of soda bottles into the dumpster, think of this alarming statistic, quoted by Dave Aftandilian in the Chicago-based culture and environmental magazine Conscious Choice: 'In the United States, more than 1.5 million workers produce or distribute more than $300 billion worth of plastic-related products annually. Worldwide more than 200 billion pounds (100 million tons) of plastics are made each year--80 billion pounds in the United States alone.'

And recycling, with its costliness and inability to reuse many forms of plastic, is clearly not the answer.

With the pile of plastic growing in our landfills, along with plastic's heavy reliance on non-renewable resources--which we are rapidly exhausting for our energy needs--the time is right for a new, more naturally produced form of plastic called bioplastic.

Natural plastic is not revolutionary. As Aftandilian points out, 'natural resins such as amber and shellac have been known since Roman times, and various bioplastics were common in the 19th century.' Even better, starches that could potentially be used for bioplastics might be derived from other forms of waste, such as potato peelings.

For now, one of the main problems in the push toward developing 'green' plastics lies in persuading private industries to consider using them. However, according to Aftandilian, companies that dive into such technologies now will be in a better position than other companies when future environmental regulations are mandated. By that time, they may also be reaping huge savings in production: 'Because bioplastics can be manufactured at lower temperatures and without the use of chemical solvents, they offer cost savings in terms of reduced energy and chemical inputs,' he writes.
--Julie Madsen
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