Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Corn to the rescue? I think not.

This is a follow up to my prior post "How Green is It"in which I ranted about the suspicious label of biodegradable on a plastic drinking cup and the disbelief I had in PLA and other corn based "fix-its".

Corn is becoming the ubiquitous fix all for our nation- from packaging to plastics to animal feed - finding far too many unnatural entry points into our product based life. Just because it is made out of corn does not mean that it is natural, nor biodegradable. Maybe I am a purist, but I do not think I am along to believe that biodegrading is what should be happen naturally, as in our compost heaps, and not in some large scale industrial composter (which has it's own very large carbon foot print). In this article, the Smithsonian looked into the misleading notion of biodegradable plastics which is a farce. . It may be a cost effective solution, (in the beginning, it cost $200 to make a pound of PLA; now it’s less than $1) but it is not a solution without it's own environmental problems. “It was a big step backward for the biodegradability movement,” as the article discusses of the advent of the biodegradable bag, “Whole communities abandoned the concept of biodegradable bags as a fraud.” While PLA is a good place to start, it presents us with it's own subset of problems. So, yes, as PLA advocates say, corn plastic is “biodegradable”, but in reality very few consumers have access to the sort of composting facilities that can make it biodegrade. Regardless of it's misleading biodegradable label, it is more often than not listed as a #7 plastic and therefore will end up in a landfill or incinerator like the majority of our nations garbage. The fact is that we need far better alternatives and processes to replace PLA.

To see the entire article, click the link below.
Corn Plastic to the Rescue

Wal-Mart and others are going green with "biodegradable" packaging made from corn. But is this really the answer to America's throwaway culture?
By Elizabeth Royte
Photographs by Brian Smale
Smithsonian magazine, August 2006

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