Your chairs, synthetic rugs and plastic bags could one day be made out of cocoa, rice and vegetable waste rather than petroleum, scientists are now reporting. The novel process they have developed and their results, which could help the world deal with its agricultural and plastic waste problems, appear in the ACS journal Macromolecules.
Athanassia Athanassiou, Ilker Bayer and colleagues at the Italian Institute of Technology point out that plastic’s popularity is constantly growing. In 2012, its production reached 288 million tons worldwide, but its ubiquity comes at a cost. Synthetic plastics persist for hundreds or thousands of years while releasing toxic components with the potential to harm the environment and human health. Also, plastics are made out of petroleum, which is a nonrenewable source. The shift to more environmentally friendly bioplastics has been challenging and expensive. Athanassiou’s team wanted to find a simple, less costly way to make the transition.