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Plastic Alternatives

Bioplastics are a topic up for debate. While some think it a better choice than conventional plastics, some critics say that it is an unnecessary use of a portion of the food supply which is already strained considering the vast populations that are food insecure.

Massive plastic consumption and pre-packaged convenience comes at a high price. Pollution that does not biodegrade and toxic by-products from manufacturing processes being just a few issues. While some innovations seek to create compounds that can be used like plastics, but made smarter with renewable resources, some of these up and coming products still have questionable recycling capabilities.

There are newer ways in the works of making plastics that provide some promising ventures, though. Turning orange peels into plastic is one neat advance. Created by British researchers microwaves are used to change plant materials, like orange peelings, into a plastic substance. The developer of the process found that once heated in the microwave it can change the peel’s fibers into gasses. These gasses can be condensed into a liquid substance that can be turned into plastic.

Though it works with an assortment of discarded plants, scientists say orange peels are best since they contain a chemical called d-limonene that is used in products already on the market. To come up with a maintainable solution all around they have teamed up with juice makers in Brazil where orange peel waste is abundant. Besides being a creative way to practically use what would normally be thrown out, it is decomposable too.

Utilizing the stems and shells from plants to make plastic is another exciting development. Researchers in Tokyo have made a bioplastic composed of the portions of plants that are not eaten, like shells. Cellulose from plant stems are merged with cardanol, which is a key ingredient in cashew shells, creating a sturdy material that is unaffected by water and extreme temperatures. This remarkably can be used to produce a variety of electronics, and the finished product is composed of over 70% plant based elements.

Putting waste to work makes sense.

Enlisting more sustainable methods is greatly needed in this arena, and the ingenuity of the scientific community that makes it happen deserves recognition.

 

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