Corn-based Plastics

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In a world looking for alternatives to petroleum, an innovative concept invented around 20 years ago, of creating plastic from corn, yes corn, is now catching on. Several manufacturers are already making products like, trash bags, food containers and packaging for consumer goods, from this polylactic acid resin material called PLA. So, what’s so green about PLA?

First, it’s made from a renewable resource and does not contain toxins. And unlike conventional plastic which uses 200,000 barrels of oil a day in the U.S. alone, it is petroleum-free. Additionally, production of PLA uses 65% less energy than producing conventional plastic, therefore generating 68% fewer greenhouse gases. Even the cost is attractive. And although it is biodegradable, which is good news considering plastics take up about 25% of landfill space by volume, it is compostable only in controlled conditions.

Those controlled conditions don’t include your backyard compost bin, but composting facilities that have the capability to properly compost PLA. Of course as the PLA movement advances, more facilities will be built or converted to accommodate PLA composting or even recycling. The other problem is that PLA shouldn’t be recycled with PET plastics.

Critics of PLA say that the mindset of consumers will need to change too, from reducing our need for the amount of throw-away plastic to the proper disposal of such items.

For more information, visit the Smithsonian Magazine here.

Tag(s): Energy, Food, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Global Warming, The Great Green Outdoors


2 Responses to “Corn-based Plastics”

  1. Blake on December 7th, 2007 6:31 pm

    Interesting stuff, but I don’t think there’s enough corn to go around. Supply is already getting stretched thin enough as it is with the new demand brought about by the ethanol industry, which is a joke.

  2. Blake on December 7th, 2007 6:37 pm

    It would be a good time to be in the agricultural business though, with all these new and different uses and demands for corn!

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