At this point, manufacturing and daily life are dependent on petroleum-based plastic because of its malleability- its ability to be molded into any shape, and its light weight. Everything about plastic is super duper except its environmental effects- its synthetic, slowly biodegradable composition and the toxic byproducts of its manufacturing and burning. The real question is can we make a form of plastic from renewable, biodegradable resources? Scientists are definitely working on this, although it is currently an expensive process and material, and have methods for making pea-starch and other organic materials as the base of plastic. One company is trying to use the by-product from paper-making and mix it with other organic materials to make “plastic wood” they call “Arboform”.
It is amazing how much of our lives rely on petroleum (refer to the energybulletin link below). However, one company called Ecosynthetix is developing a petroleum replacement made out of nano-sized starch particles derived from crops such as corn and potatos. According to the Ecosynthetix website, less than 2% of global starch production would be needed for this purpose – therefore, it would not rival global food demands. Considering how versatile petroleum is – which is why it is capable of being used for just so many things – while Ecosynthetix could replace it in some ways, it wouldn’t be able to accomodate for it in others. Still, at this point in its development it can be used for water-based paints, coatings, binders, and adhesives. We still have a ways to go before we find something as multi-functional as petroleum.
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