Mr. Carrell 10b Chemistry
October 3, 2012
It might be hard to believe that the plastic fork you used at the ball park while watching Auburn beat Louisiana Monroe the other day could have once been corn. In fact one percent of all the synthetic plastics manufactured is bioplastic or corn plastic (HowStuffWorks.com). Bioplastic is defined as “a form of plastic derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch…etc.” (Wikipedia.com) Environmentalists boast that bioplastics are better for the environment because they are biodegradable or compost-able, produce less pollution, and come from a renewable resource. However, all three of these reasons are flawed. The long-term effect of using bioplastic is not a world free from the evil petroleum companies, but the possible end of recycling as we know it and possibly also a lack of farm land used for food.
Firstly, bioplastics are not as biodegradable or as easily composted as is claimed. Companies that manufacture bioplastics say that their products decay similarly to an apple core. However, the truth is that it takes hot, moist temperatures like in commercial composting plants to make the plastic decay properly (HowStuffWorks.com). If bioplastics become prevalent, then gone are the days of the curb-side recycling. If even a few bioplastic items find their way into a normal plastic recycling batch, the entire batch is contaminated and prevented from being reused, due to the difference in melting points of the two substances (FoxNews.com). It would take major changes in the recycling industry to be able to meet the demand. Recycling plants would need to find ways of either separating the two types of plastics or mixing the two. However, even if one decides to throw the fork or bottle into the compost pile in the backyard or it ends up in a landfill, the plastic will not decay at rate that the companies advertise (Guardian.co.uk).
And bioplastics do not actually produce less pollution, but a different kind of pollution. When the plastic decays it releases methane, a greenhouse gas (HowStuffWorks.com). Methane has been linked to global warming or climate change. Additionally the manufacturing of the bioplastics produces carbon dioxide (FoxNews.com). According to eco-scientists carbon is the leading cause of climate change.
Finally, even the growth of the crops that make the bioplastics poses problems. According to article posted on Discovery.com by Jessica Marshall, a study by Landis Research Group found that the bioplastics have “higher impacts for eutrophication, eco-toxicity and production of human carcinogens.” In layman’s terms this means rivers polluted by fertilizer, harmful effects of chemicals on an environment, and radiation causing cancer, respectively. They linked these mostly to the crops that produce the bioplastics, specifically the pesticides used in their production.
In conclusion, bioplastics will, in the end, have negative effects. They will bring the end of recycling as we know it, and they will put composting into the hands of scarce commercial composting companies.
Works Cited“Bioplastic.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. n.d. Web. October 1, 2012.
Lamb, Robert. “What is corn plastic?” HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks, Inc. n.d. Web. October 1, 2012. Jewell, Mark. “Green Plastics Find Cautious Market.” Fox News. Fox News Network, LLC. October 2007. Web. October 1, 2012. Marshall, Jessica. “Bioplastics not so Green.” Discovery News. Discovery Communications, LLC. December 2010. Web. October 1, 2012. Vidal, John. “’Sustainable bio-plastic can damage the environment.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. April 2008. Web. October 1, 2012.