Environmentally-Friendly Plastic and the Race for Renewable Energy

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So far, the issue of “environmentally friendly” plastic has been a true catch 22 for environmentally conscious citizens. We’re stuck with two plastic options: plant-based, and petroleum-based. Currently, plant-based plastics have a larger carbon footprint than do the petroleum-based kind because of the resources (ie: corn fields) and extraction processes required to create them.

Petroleum-based plastics created from fossil fuels actually have much less of a carbon footprint, but conversely they pollute our environment with…well…plastic. The pollution left by these petroleum plastics will take many many lifetimes to break down, and when it finally does, will combine with organic matter to continually disturb our delicate ecosystem.

There are those out there who don’t even like the idea of biodegradable plastic. They say the gases (mostly methane) and organic matter that discharge during the degradation process lead to potentially harmful effects to our environment and atmosphere.

This whole thing seems like walking over burning coals, and it’s difficult to find the next step. Lets try to stay cool though.

So, what can we do? We can start by jumping head first into renewable energy. Although more resources are required to create these plant-based plastics, if the energy we use is renewable, then theoretically we could use as much as we want without causing great harm to the environment. Renewable energy that’s used to create plant-based plastics provides an alternative that will leave a much smaller carbon footprint than any other currently available option.

Rapid innovations offer hope, and alternate solutions. Did you know we can even genetically modify plants to grow plastic now? Weird! Until that route is perfected, however, promoting renewable energy resources is our best bet.

My final verdict is: continue to promote plant-based materials while letting technology and social consciousness do the rest. I truly believe our technology is evolving rapidly and we will be over the renewable energy hump in no time. As far as the biodegradable issue, maybe we should look into non-degradable, but completely recyclable plastic options.

Just my thoughts though; be your own judge.

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