Plastics: The Good, the Bad, The Ugly

February 27, 2011

thrift

I seem to be on a roll these days regarding plastics, toxins, and the environment. I am by no means a “tree hugger,” as I do feel that modern technology has its place. Modern advances in manufacturing, technology and health have significantly improved our lives. But I will say that profligate abuse of the good earth God gave us is bad. I recently blogged about planned obsolescence and the toxins that are heavily incorporated into our lives and products. Plastics and materials such as styrofoam are in the news again. I recently saw on USAToday that there’s a developing move into “bioplastics.” Bioplastics are a biodegradable plastic derived from plant matter, not petroleum as most plastics are currently. This is from Wikipedia:

Bioplastics or organic plastics are a form of plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable oil, corn starch, pea starch, or microbiota, rather than fossil-fuel plastics which are derived from petroleum. Some, but not all, bioplastics are designed to biodegrade.

Interesting, no?

While I think biodegradable plastic is superb for many things, there are some things that I would not want to use it for. Take, for example, polyethylene sheets. These came on very handy for my renovation– I used them as drop “cloths,” tarps, covering furniture, and– most importantly– as my vapor barrier with insulation when I rebuilt the gutted walls.

DRinsulation

I surely would not want these to biodegrade over time! Nothing provides a superior moisture and air barrier than poly sheets.

Yet, I would think that plastic bag manufacturers could use biodegradable plastic, and make a WHOLE lot of people happy. The current petro-based bags NEVER degrade. Which reminds me, one of the kids place a couple of these bags in my compost bin and I have the pleasant job of digging then out this spring. :-p

Cups, packaging containers, package wrap, etc– these all are perfect candidates for this new wave of plastics. But I do think there’s a place for petro-plastics, still. I am very happy to see companies becoming more conscientious about reducing waste and toxins in our environment.

What do you think? Would you be more inclined to shop at a store that had biodegradable plastic bags? Or go to a coffee shop that served drinks in biodegradable coffee cups?

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