Matthew, a cynic might say the point of bio-based plastics is to make
big bucks for the big corporations who manufacture them, not to compost!
Also, as markets for tradable renewable/greenhouse gas reduction
credits evolve worldwide, there's probably discussion that companies
substituting bio sources for non-renewable sources for plastic
manufacture will own the credits that accrue from that bioplastic,
adding to its value.
Once again, we do have a manufacturer not really too concerned about
end-of-life issues for the products, I note. Without stronger producer
responsibilty laws, stuff like PLA plastics will be a headache for
recyclers & composters and not for the companies who profit from them....
USCC has a session on biobased plastics at its upcoming conference early
next year. Anyone on this list who attends - if you can, please report
out on the discussion there!
Can't remember if these factoids have been mentioned on this thread;
here are some interesting dimensions to this issue:
-- <5% of GMO (genetically modified organisms) corn goes to PLA made by
C-D right now. However, use of GMO for bioplastics and biomass-to-energy
generation is one use some think may be acceptable (as opposed to food
uses of GMO seeds). However, cross-contamination of crops from GMO to
non-GMO is a concern. Apparently 70% of the soy in the US is GMO and no
one can certify (except probably organically grown) that soy in food
products isn't GMO.
-- I believe only about 7% of the world's petroleum goes to plastics
right now, so replacement of petro-derived plastics with bio-derived
plastics isn't going to get us off non-renewable sources right away -
tho every step helps on that front.
Matthew Cotton wrote:
Being a composter, maybe I'm missing something in this discussion, but
isn't the point of corn/soy based plastics that you can compost them?
So rather than look at them as a contaminant in plastics recycling
(which is obviously a concern), why not look at them as an exciting
new way to remove that much more material from the waste stream into a
cycle which makes them into compost which can be used to grow corn,
soybeans, wine grapes, etc.?
Pat is right though about the issue of separating the two "plastics"
in the recycling stream. How will the public (or the operators, or the
sorters) learn that some "plastic" is biodegradable and some is not?
I'm not sure it makes sense to use biodegradable plates, cutlery,
packaging, etc. if its just going to end up in a landfill.
As for groups to tap into, the US Composting Council discusses this
issue regularly and many members have far more knowledge about and
experience with biodegradables than I. Check out:
Integrated Waste Management Consulting
19375 Lake City Road
Nevada City, CA 95959
Fax (530) 265-4547
Join us at the US Composting Council's 13th Annual Conference and
Trade Show, January 23-26, 2005 at the Crowne Plaza Riverwalk in San
Register at www.compostingcouncil.org
On Nov 30, 2004, at 6:10 AM, Pat Franklin wrote:
Don makes a good argument for corn/soy-based plastics over
plastics, but I don't think it's quite that simple particularly when
into the area of recycling and how the two types of plastics interact
recycling stream. This is an interesting and important dialogue that
mind) needs to continue. Does anyone know what group(s) we might tap
for more information?
From: D Hughes [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, November 29, 2004 10:26 PM
To: Jenny Gitlitz; greenyes
Cc: Maine, Bruce
Subject: Re: [greenyes] Plastic from corn?
There are two major advantages that corn- or soy-based plastics have
their petroleum-derived counterparts. First, they are renewable.
they are biodegradable. The consequences of these two advantages, taken
together, are immense: growing corn does not contribute to global
to anywhere near the extent that petroleum does; nor does it create a
product which, unless incinerated, lasts virtually forever. Plastic
is the most commonly seen pollutant in the world's oceans, and has
the death of untold numbers of marine wildlife. That in itself
reason to make the switch.
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
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:There
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.
is a surplus of corn grown in the U.S.--subsidization accounting for
glut. Also--the vast majority of corn grown in the U.S. is used as
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 &
used to grow our agricultural products by 80-90% (not to mention ag
From what I understand, the energy inputs used to grow and process
corn-based plastics may exceed the energy value of comparable
from petroleum. I have not seen a complete life-cycle analysis on
can't vouch for this. I am curious to learn if this can be done
energy savings over traditional plastics manufacture.
Other factors must be kept in mind, too: pesticide use, for one.
corn manufacture is a monocrop process that is pesticide-,
water-intensive, and reduces the potential (=historical)
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
organically, intercropped with other grains, and bred to be
drought-tolerant, the overall picture might be different.
Research Director, Container Recycling Institute
2 Pomeroy Ave.
Dalton, MA 01226
Tel. (413) 684-4746
Mobile: (413) 822-0115
Fax: (413) 403-0233
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 firstname.lastname@example.org *
"When I was younger I could remember anything,
whether it happened or not."
Mark Twain (1835-1910); US writer and journalist.