With our oceans currently full of almost as much plastic as there are fish, plastic pollution is a considerable problem for our planet.
It may be unrealistic to expect people to stop using plastic altogether, but thankfully there are many suitable alternatives to harmful petroleum-based plastics. These new eco-friendly plastics are much more sustainable and compassionate towards the earth and all life on it.
A recent study published in Nature Communications reveals that researchers at Colorado State University have created a new biomaterial derived from natural microorganisms. This newfound discovery could really make a difference in the way plastic is produced, leading to less negative environmental impacts in the world.
The team of chemists was led by CSU’s Professor of Chemistry, Eugene Chen. “More than 200 pounds of synthetic polymers are consumed per person each year — plastics probably the most in terms of production volume. And most of these polymers are not biorenewable,” Chen said. “Toxic plastic waste can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose, posing a problem for natural ecosystems.” The team synthesized a polymer (large molecule) from bacteria, and this bacterial poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) is known as P3HB. This can also be created using algae and other microorganisms, as well as fermented glucose. The substance is a biomaterial, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy, and it can be used in the same way that petroleum-based plastics are currently being used. The biomass-derived material can easily be substituted in industrial production, and is expected to become more prominent in the future. As of now, production costs still remain high, but as technology increases, the price could decrease to make the material more available to consumers.
It is worth noting that this is not the first bio-renewable, biodegradable plastic created, as there are many other environmentally-conscious plastic alternatives available as well, such as those made from hemp, bamboo, corn starch, leaves and more. However, these green plastics are less well known and therefore not as widespread as they could be.
It is simply a matter of awareness and striving to make an effort to do better. There is a lot of potential in renewable resources, and the future is full of possibility. Plastics made from fossil fuels may still be the most common choice in these present times, but that could soon be a thing of the past.
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