Plastics from Trees?

Approximately 7% of worldwide oil and gas used today is turned into plastics. The amount made per year is about 150 million tonnes.

99% of plastics are currently made from fossil fuels.

One of the problems of plastics made from oil or gas is that they are not biodegradable. If buried in landfill, they persist for a long time.

Plastics made from plant starch and sugars break down more quickly.

A member of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council said recently that researchers at Imperial College, London are working towards making plastics from sugars in fast-growing trees. They could be on the shelves within five years. Research is now concentrating on how to make them for the mass market.

This could help reduce demand for oil and gas. Such plastics might even be compostable.

This is a welcome development. Making plastics from sustainable plant material must be the way to go, as long as the trees do not replace food crops.

ND, habitat21 (2006)

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