As a third generation ecologist and a member of the first Earth Day, I have been waiting for the country (and the rest of the world) to wake up to the ecological crises that we have created. To the naysayers of Global Warming, I’m sorry, you can’t justify the science of the devastation that we have wreaked in the last one hundred years on a simple explanation of the earth’s cyclical process. Core samples taken from the world’s polar caps tell the story: Humanity is destroying the earth. One of the biggest contributors to this destruction is oil and oil bi-products. Besides our automobiles spewing chemicals into the atmosphere that linger long enough to cause global warming, plastic is the biggy! Whenever a new green product or idea enters the arena, we must examine it completely to assure that it is beneficial and not just another method to make money on the green train. Sustainable bioplastics is in the media. But what are the pros and cons involved in this topic?

First you must examine what are bioplastics? Bioplastics are also called organic plastics (often a misnomer) and are plastics that are created from any of the renewable sources such as plants. Standard plastics are made from petroleum based products. Bioplastics have entered the world in the packaging industry and are quickly making their appearance in a lot of the things we see and use every day. Europe has passed a standard of requirement for a product to be considered a bioplastic. While the European guideline requires that a product have a ninety percent biodegrading rate of the materials within 180 days, the United States guidelines are set at a sixty percent rate.

Sustainable bioplastics will help to remove our dependency on oil.
Sustainable bioplastics are made from renewable sources.
Many of the bioplastics are biodegradable
Sustainable bioplastics are used and promoted for recycled products
Product costs are being lowered due to the increased oil prices
The investment into research of bioplastics is being backed by large
Corporate dollars. Continued research will lead to improved
production techniques and products that are more earth friendly.

There is a limited shelf life for some of the sustainable bioplastics.
Some bioplastics have a lesser performance factor when compared to petroleum
based plastics.
Some bioplastics have been used for years and have a slow rate for biodegrading.
The manufacturing process of bioplastics still relies on petroleum based energy
Studies have shown that various bioplastics manufacturing varies in its
environmental impact: Some good, some below the bar.
There are concerns that sustainable bioplastics will upset existing recycling
Since the production of bioplastics as market is fairly new, the manufacturing
price tag is not as cost effective as the fossil fuel plastic production; this
is based on existing price of oil.

The mere idea that we are pursuing and adopting bioplastics is a major step in the right direction. It demonstrates that we have pulled our communal heads out of the rabbit burrow and are realizing that what we as humans do has a great impact on the earth and all of it’s inhabitants. In essence, we are starting to mature as a species and thinking of the existence of more than just ourselves. There will be future research and new product development in sustainable bioplastics that will give our children and grandchildren the best inheritance of all: A healthy planet.

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2 Responses to “Sustainable bioplastics: what are the pros and cons?”

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