Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bioplastics recycling consortium wants to reuse every last bit of plastic

source: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/08/bioplastics-recycling-consortium-forms.php

Composting Bottle Photo
Image source: WildGreenYonder

With "need" (how to ensure all of those alternative plastics - corn, soy, sugarcane- are reused, now that regular plastic is poo-poo'd), comes a "market." The Bioplastics Recycling Consortium was created to "develop an effective, efficient and economical recovery system and end markets for post-consumer bioplastic material."

Bioplastics are the alternatives to petroleum-based plastics, and are commonly made from corn, soy, sugar cane, or maize, and are thought to be a better source than petroleum-based plastic because they biodegrade - or at least can break down within a year under the right conditions. The Freedonia Group estimates that the demand for bioplastics will increase 20% every year through 2010, with film, bottles and food service products being the largest markets.

In order to do this though they will need a labeling system so that consumers can identify one plastic water bottle from a bioplastic one. Next, they are going to need a cost effective way to get this bioplastic to the appropriate recyclers so that they can turn it into its next use. With the increased demand and production of bioplastics they will have a source, but until the infrastructure is in place, it looks like the consortium has their work cut out for them.

There are additional downsides to this increase in bioplastics, the first being that using corn, soy, maize and sugar cane, etc for packaging is increasing food shortage problems in certain parts of the world. The second is that there are concerns over increased methane emissions from the breakdown of these plastics during recycling. Corn can't be recycled with traditional plastic because the polylactic acid present in the corn-plastic will ruin the petroleum-plastic waste stream.

Makers of bioplastics include Novamont, Primo, which makes bottled-water from corn-based plastic, Wheatware and Natureworks. Novamont and Natureworks both report that production of bioplastics is less energy intensive than producing petroleum-based plastic products.

The Consortium is made up of representatives such as brand owners, recyclers, retailers, NGO's and academia. With this wide range in view points, they also get a complete view of the entire waste stream, so that the bioplastics can be recovered and turned into something that is useful for another use, indefinitely, in theory offering a truly sustainable product.

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