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Re: [greenyes] Plastic from corn?

There are two major advantages that corn- or soy-based plastics have over their petroleum-derived counterparts. First, they are renewable. Second, they are biodegradable. The consequences of these two advantages, taken together, are immense: growing corn does not contribute to global warming, to anywhere near the extent that petroleum does; nor does it create a waste product which, unless incinerated, lasts virtually forever. Plastic litter is the most commonly seen pollutant in the world's oceans, and has led to the death of untold numbers of marine wildlife. That in itself should be reason to make the switch.
Don Hughes

ps. Cutting back on pork and beef consumption would not be a bad idea, both in terms of better health and reducing human impacts on the environment.

t 08:48 AM 11/29/2004, Jenny Gitlitz wrote:
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

Don Hughes, PhD student *
Dept of Chemistry, 431 Jahn Laboratory *
SUNY-College of Environmental Science & Forestry
Syracuse, NY 13210 *
315-470-6597 djhughes@no.address *
"When I was younger I could remember anything,
whether it happened or not."
Mark Twain (1835-1910); US writer and journalist.

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