Plastic sometimes feels like a fact of life. From packaging to medical supplies to paints and adhesives, it's pretty tough stuff to avoid. While ideally we'd ditch the plastic all together, there are some amazing innovations for petroleum free plastic that's much more ecofriendly than the conventional stuff.
1. Sugar and Bacteria
Scientists at OPX Biotechnologies have developed a sugar-based plastic processed by bacteria that's actually less expensive than its petroleum-based counterpart. They use engineered E-coli to convert sugars to plastic that can be used in paints, diapers, and adhesives.
Disposable diapers have problems beyond the plastic content, though. For a truly eco-friendly solution, reusable diapers are best.
2. Compostable Plastic
Not all compostable plastics are created equal. Most will not break down in a home compost bin, instead requiring an industrial facility. Researchers at the Imperial College of London are working on a sugar-based compostable cup that actually will break down in residential bins.
3. Algae-Based Plastic
Cereplast is developing a bioplastic made from algae instead of petroleum. The best part? Since algae absorbs CO2, the process actually has a negative carbon footprint!
4. Sugarcane Plastic
The key to getting bioplastics to catch on is adoption. With companies like Procter & Gamble getting on board, we should see even more plastic innovation. The company producing P&G's new packaging, Braskem SA, uses sustainably-grown sugarcane to manufacture their plastic.
5. Smart Mud
A team of Japanese researchers is looking to combine clay, water, and a special thickening agent to create "smart mud" which they can then use to produce strong, self-healing plastic.
Full disclosure: this isn't technically a plastic, but it does the job of a plastic product with none of the waste.
Rather than developing a new bioplastic, Jelloware took things in a different direction with their edible cups made from agar agar. Traditionally used as a thickener, agar agar is a seaweed common in vegan cooking. It's also full of nutrients that are good for you and the soil, so after you enjoy the cocktail or juice in your glass, you can take a bite or toss it on the ground to nourish the soil.
7. Truly Recyclable Plastic
When plastic hits the recycling facility, it's actually downcycled. That means that it's turned into a lower quality plastic. After a few rounds of downcycling, that plastic is headed to the landfill. Scientists working with IBM and Stanford University are developing a plant-based plastic that holds up to recycling and could have a ton of practical applications from medical to automotive.
Have you run across any great plastic innovations that I missed? I'd love to hear them in the comments!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by geoftheref