Dow Chemical uses nanotechnology to turn plant life into non-biodegradable plastics

By Owen Lloyd, DGR News Service

Dow Chemical, working together with Utrecht University, has found a way to develop the building blocks of plastics from the living flesh of plants, as a purportedly green alternative to oil-based production.

The researchers were able to construct the widely-used plastics ethylene and propylene from an iron catalyst made up of nanoparticles.

This is very different from existing bioplastics, made from crops such as corn, because in this case the plastics produced are identical to oil-produced plastics, and hence non-biodegradable, as the manufacturing industry prefers. Thus the plastic industry has now discovered a way to turn living matter directly into dead, everlasting plastics.

Researchers behind the project say that non-food plant sources, such as trees or grasses, will most likely be used, to prevent immediate competition with the ethanol industry. Thus the project is likely to come into direction competition with living ecosystems, such as rainforests, instead. Deforesting tropical areas to produce new bioplastics will deviate from ordinary plastic production insofar as it will not only release carbon emissions, but also directly hamper the planet’s ability to  sequester carbon.

The research, which was published in the journal Science, is still ongoing, and the new bioplastic production is not planned to reach the market for several more years. It is expected that diminishing oil and natural gas, combined with corporate greenwashing, will attract a lucrative market for the new plastics.

Information sourced from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/16/us-bioplastic-nanotechnology-idUSTRE81F1PO20120216

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