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RE: [greenyes] Plastic from corn?

Yet another consideration is whether or not this new product (PLA)
interferes with plastic recycling. According to a member of the Association
of Post-Consumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) "PLA is a compostable/degradable
plastic that Cargill/Dow hopes will replace PET someday. . . It has a
different melt temperature from PET, so it is a contaminant. They have made
2 presentations to APR. . ." and according to the APR member, the company
(Cargill/Dow) was told that they were a contaminant to PET recycling. The
APR member further said that "For this thing to work they would have to set
up a separate collection system for this material. And like any
biodegradable, it would have to be in an exposed setting to breakdown
(landfills are not too great for this)."

I've copied Robin Cotchan, Exec Dir of APR, on this email and I've blind
cc'd the APR member who provided these quotes. Perhaps one of them will
weigh in on this issue.

Pat Franklin


-----Original Message-----
From: Jenny Gitlitz [mailto:jenny.gitlitz@no.address]
Sent: Monday, November 29, 2004 8:48 AM
To: greenyes
Cc: Maine, Bruce
Subject: Re: [greenyes] Plastic from corn?

On 11/29/04 8:12 AM, Maine, Bruce at Bruce.Maine@no.address wrote:

> Sacrificing food resources for consumer goods doesn't seem
> to make a lot of sense

From what I understand, "sacrificing" food resources is not an issue. There
is a surplus of corn grown in the U.S.--subsidization accounting for the
glut. Also--the vast majority of corn grown in the U.S. is used as cattle
feed, not as a direct food source for humans. If we were all to become
vegetarians or vegans, we could probably cut the land (and water & energy)
used to grow our agricultural products by 80-90% (not to mention ag wastes).

From what I understand, the energy inputs used to grow and process
corn-based plastics may exceed the energy value of comparable plastic resin
from petroleum. I have not seen a complete life-cycle analysis on this, so I
can't vouch for this. I am curious to learn if this can be done with net
energy savings over traditional plastics manufacture.

Other factors must be kept in mind, too: pesticide use, for one. American
corn manufacture is a monocrop process that is pesticide-, fertilizer-, and
water-intensive, and reduces the potential (=historical) biodiversity of the
plains. Trading one monocrop output (beef) for another (corn plastics)
doesn't seem like a big win for our society. If the corn could be grown
organically, intercropped with other grains, and bred to be
drought-tolerant, the overall picture might be different.


Jennifer Gitlitz
Research Director, Container Recycling Institute

Home Office:
2 Pomeroy Ave.
Dalton, MA 01226
Tel. (413) 684-4746
Mobile: (413) 822-0115
Fax: (413) 403-0233
Email: jgitlitz@no.address

Please note the new address for CRI¹s main office:
Container Recycling Institute
1601 North Kent St., Suite 803
Arlington, VA 22209-2105
Tel. (703) 276-9800
Fax: (703) 276-9587

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