lundi 26 avril 2010

The Promise And Pitfalls of Bioplastic

Regular, petroleum-based plastic doesn't biodegrade. But this year's crop of Earth Day — inspired ads shows plant-based plastics doing just that: an empty SunChips bag fading into the soil, a Paper Mate pen dissolving underground. Although the visuals suggest that these items simply disintegrate (Goodbye, landfill!), the reality is more complicated. Take the SunChips bag. It needs to go in a compost bin; the packaging is clear about that. Likewise, Paper Mate notes that the pen's outer casing will break down if buried in a backyard but that its innards should go in the garbage. Forget to separate them, and the outer part won't biodegrade in a landfill.

Bioplastics could be really good for the environment — the manufacturing process produces fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than that for petroleum-based plastics, and these biomaterials don't contain an allegedly hormone-disrupting chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), that some regular plastics do. But is society green enough to use bioplastics? Many of us still don't recycle all our bottles and cans, and now companies are expecting us to start composting?

Breaking our petroleum addiction won't be easy. But the more pain we feel at the pump — gas prices are expected to go back up to $3 a gal. (80¢ per L) this summer — the more we'll be willing to adapt. For now, many SunChips purchasers are complaining not about the lack of industrial composting sites but about how much noise the new bag makes. "I tried to sneak some SunChips at night, and I woke my wife up," says Bob O'Connell, a compliance officer in New Port Richey, Fla. "That's how loud the bag is." Ah, priorities. For many, green still takes a backseat to convenience.

Read full article

Aucun commentaire: