So plastics can be good for the atmosphere too
Plastics that are made from materials that are biodegradable, such as corn, are attractive to the consumer, but recent studies reveal that they also generate lower greenhouse gas emissions than the manufacturing of other plastics.
Jian Yu and Lilian Chen of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, examined the greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing one type of bioplastic, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), made by bacteria growing on corn-based sugar.
The pair examined the potential for making PHA from waste material left over from the production of ethanol from the stalks and leaves of corn plants -- which is not yet done on a commercial scale.
"We count all of the chemicals, fertilizers and fuels. We also count the CO2 released from our process. That includes the direct CO2 from the fermentation part, and the energy part," Yu said. "We tried to bean count so we can understand which part is the major CO2 producer."
In the manufacturing of bottles, the biggest producer of greenhouse gases is the fermentation process, and the other is electricity. The new process tackles both environmental reasons but also economic ones.
Of course, you can always go the really environmentally friendly route and make your plastic out of potato.