A WORLD WITHOUT PLASTIC. Switching to Biodegradable material.

We have identified bioscience companies that manufacturers a specific type biodegradable plastic that will degrade in the water as well as land.

“What we want to talk about is letting go of the struggle against reality, accepting things as they truly are, and finding ways to work with the world rather than against it.

So, what are some ways that we can make it easier for people to do the right thing?  For example, we still are thinking about how to approach Trader Joe’s to reduce its produce packaging. To do that, I need to analyze the reality of the situation, understand why they use so much plastic (without making assumptions), and figure out how to make it easier, or at least worthwhile, for them to change.  We have a feeling there are deep issues at work.

What suggestions do you have not just for how to approach a grocery store but what policies should be instituted, products developed, strategies devised to make caring for the planet?” Says: Beth Terry.

Just how long does it take for conventional plastics to completely break down? 500 years? 1,000? It’s a mystery. “No one has really measured how long it takes,” says Ramani Narayan, a professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at Michigan State University. What is known is that conventional petroleum-based plastics never really go away, even when they break down into pieces too small to be seen with the naked eye. Some new plastics are designed to degrade (not to be confused with biodegrade) in a matter of weeks when exposed to the elements, but that doesn’t mean they’re truly are gone.

But broken down plastics are better than litter, right? Wrong. In fact, plastics often create more environmental harm when broken down than when intact. This is most evident in the oceans, home to billions of pieces of disintegrating plastic and preproduction pellets called nurdles, which can work their way back up the food chain to humans.

What about biodegradable plastics? They’re pretty neat: Microorganisms can convert biodegradable plastics into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass—with no nasty chemical leftovers.  “The public thinks that biodegradability means ‘If I throw it away, it will completely go away,'” says Narayan. “They don’t even know what ‘going away’ means.” Real biodegradable plastic should be sent to a commercial composting facility, where it will spend its final days being eaten by microbes. But here’s the catch: In 2007, only 42 communities nationwide offered compost collection. (Seventeen were in California.) And though some biodegradable plastics can be recycled, no curbside recycling program will take them. So before you buy biodegradable plastics, make sure you can help them “go away” the right way.

NatureWorks is the largest lactic-acid plant in the world. Into one end of the complex goes corn; out the other come white pellets, an industrial resin poised to become—if you can believe all the hype—the future of plastic in a post-petroleum world.

The resin, known as polylactic acid (PLA), will be formed into containers and packaging for food and consumer goods. The trendy plastic has several things going for it. It’s made from a renewable resource, which means it has a big leg up—both politically and environmentally—on conventional plastic packaging, which uses an estimated 200,000 barrels of oil a day in the United States. Also, PLA is in principle compostable, meaning that it will break down under certain conditions into harmless natural compounds. That could take pressure off the nation’s mounting landfills, since plastics already take up 25 percent of dumps by volume. And corn-based plastics are starting to look cheap, now that oil prices are so high. To make plastic packaging and containers from a renewable resource that can be returned to the earth as fertilizer sounds like an unmitigated good. Selling fruits and veggies in boxes that don’t leach chemicals into landfills sounds equally wonderful.

The solutions?

Bioplastics — most of which are now made from corn — are poised to grab a bigger share of the plastics market as concerns about the environment and U.S. dependence on foreign oil promote alternatives to products made from petrochemicals.

They already are showing up in a variety of products, such as plastic gift cards, food containers and cellphone casings, says Steve Davies, a spokesman for NatureWorks.

NatureWorks, based in Minnetonka, Minn., developed one of the first plant-based plastics with the creation of a resin technology called Ingeo. Its Ingeo plastic pellets are used to make clothing, diapers and food-packaging material.

After doubling the size of its manufacturing plant in Nebraska, NatureWorks will have the capacity to produce up to 300 million pounds of pellets a year.

Research by NatureWorks, a subsidiary of agribusiness giant Cargill and Teijin of Japan, indicates a future market demand of up to 50 billion pounds of bioplastics a year within two to five years. That would represent about a 10% share of the global plastics market.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Metabolix has developed a brand of biodegradable plastic called Mirel that decomposes in soil, compost or even water, says Brian Igoe, chief brand officer. It’s made from genetically engineered microbes that convert corn sugar into polymers in a fermentation process.

Metabolix has engineered a switch-grass crop that actually grows plastic inside its leaves and stems, but that product is still a few years away, Igoe says.

Researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina have come up with solutions to some of the main technical drawbacks of bioplastics.

For example, molecules such as water can slip through corn-based plastic, which means that the water would evaporate out of such a bottle over time, says Danny Roberts, one of the Clemson scientists who developed a new, stronger type of bioplastic bottle that hit stores recently.

The type of plastic used in the EarthBottles that he and co-inventor David Gangemi developed is also more resistant to heat, which deforms bottles made of 100% corn, he says.

They added some natural ingredients to the mix that retain the biodegradable properties while eliminating the drawbacks, Roberts says. The result is a material that has the potential for use in automotive parts, fabrics and biomedical parts, among other things, he says.

And it’s all non-toxic.

“Everything is all food-grade material,” he says. “You could grind it up and eat it. It might constipate you, but it wouldn’t kill you.”

The first company to use EarthBottles is Brevard, N.C.-based Gaia Herbs, a liquid herbal grower and manufacturer that helped finance the Clemson project, Roberts says.

EarthBottles also contain natural antioxidants that help protect the product inside, he says.

“The reaction has been overwhelming,” says Angela Guerrant, vice president of sales for Gaia who showed the bottles at a trade expo in Boston recently.

“They’re shocked that this hasn’t been done already.”

Barnett is a reporter for The Greenville (S.C.) News.

We at GreenDustries are using recycled paper & carton to produce our PleatPak and Magic Bag!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, 
making ordinary plastics biodegradable.

 

 

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