In the future all plastic good we consume might be made from biodegradable materials
Almost every product you buy is wrapped in plastic. Traditionally plastic is made from non-renewable material, usually either from oil, coal or natural gas. Apart from consuming non-renewable resources, another downside of plastic packages is that are almost everlasting and this poses big problems as the packages are disposed. Inappropriately discarded plastic packages cause many kind problems: plastic bags jam drain systems, animals choke on plastic they mistake for food, etc.
In an effort to overcome these problems, biochemical researchers and engineers have long been seeking to develop biodegradable (The term biodegradable means that a substance is able to be broken down into simpler substances by the activities of living organisms, and therefore is unlikely to persist in the environment) plastics that are made from renewable resources, such as plants. One interesting discovery is made by Cambridge, Mass. (US) -based company Metabolix, which has developed a brand of biodegradable plastic called Mirel that decomposes in soil, compost or even water. Mirel is made from genetically engineered microbes that convert corn sugar into polymers in a fermentation process. The company has even engineered a switch-grass crop that actually grows plastic inside its leaves and stems, but that product is still a few years away from production.
The technology to produce renewable and biodegradable material that could be used to make plastic is alredy at hand, the downside is that biodegradable plastic products currently on the market are from 2 to 10 times more expensive than traditional plastics. As the price of oil is expected to increase and as people become more aware of the true costs of non-renewable packages, the use of renewable plastics is expected to grow considerably in the 2010’s
Opportunity: Environmental benefits