Plastic-ish

This is an issue that was actually brought to my attention last summer by my girlfriend, Rose, when she returned from her trip to Germany for World Youth Day with her church. The event is a gathering of Catholic youth from all over the world to hear the Pope speak. It is held every few years, and the country it is in changes each time. The previous one was in Toronto, and from what I understand the next is to be in Sidney. But Rose has a passion for Europe, and when she was given the chance to go to Germany with her Youth Group, she jumped. Fast.

Well, she came back enthused not just by some of the landscapes and buildings she saw, but also with a completely unique issue: That of plastic. She has mentioned it a few times now, because to this day she thinks it is one of the neatest things she has seen. And, of course, I, too find it intriguing, but have never heard of it from anyone but her until today.

I guess much of Europe is defined by pretty innovative environmental movements. One friend has mentioned large incinerators that serve not only as a way of eliminating landfills, but as a source of energy nearby as well, while still being environmentally friendly in general. Something that large scale would be pretty hard to adapt here in North America, though, although that doesn’t mean it’s not something to look forward to. But for the time being, something like what Rose came across in Germany should be an easy way of moving past some of our problems as they stand. And of course, when dealing with plastic, two issues automatically come to mind: Oil and Waste.

Both should theoretically be confronted with the ability to transform naturally-occurring glucose into plastic. The article points out that this notion is a long way off from being mainstream, but from what Rose said, that was just where it was appearing in Europe. Her disposable fork at mealtimes was composed of corn, and, surprisingly, it was even more durable than a normal plastic fork.

Yes, it will take some time for the process to be perfected. But if they are making cutlery out of corn in Germany, is there any reason that in North America it couldn’t be done? Not only would it help some of our landfill problems, since glucose is bio-degradable, but it’ll help slow the demand for oil and it makes forks that are far more usable? How could you say no?

Personally, I hope to see this in the news a lot more, soon. It’s a lot like replacing the old light bulbs — a project that is currently taking place throughout Ontario. By eliminating archaic technologies, we can begin to move past the legacy of the past generations — and avoid the eventual inevitable environmental crises that will result from our constant lack of action. Of course, until we get over our culture of purchasing a new computer, or TV, or couch every 2 years, then the landfill issue will not go away. But each step needs to be taken in turn, and something like converting from oil-based plastics to glucose-based plastics would be a good place to start.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. blackberry guy
    Jun 19, 2007 @ 20:15:00

    I think it’s a little more problematic than it sounds, because you’re using up a lot of land that might otherwise be utilized to grow food. There’s also the process of converting corn to glucose, which presumably requires energy.

    I haven’t heard of this in connection with plastic, but glucose as a fuel to replace gasoline! Unfortunately, I don’t remember where the article was. One element of the solution is to use the whole plant, not just the part that we eat — but it’s a much more difficult (costly) process to convert the stock into usable glucose.

    Something like that, though I’m going from memory on an article I read only once.

    Reply

  2. b.g.
    Jun 19, 2007 @ 20:16:00

    Oops … for “stock”, read “stalk”.

    Reply

  3. Knotwurth Mentioning
    Jun 25, 2007 @ 23:22:00

    Expensive, surely, which is why most companies will stay away from it like the plague for the time being, I am sure. Although, as I said, it’s actually somewhat mainstream in Europe, which suggests to me that in North America we aren’t getting the full picture on this kind of issue.

    As for the space needed to grow the plants to produce the glucose: it may not be the ideal solution long-term, but land that’s being used to produce plants that can be used over and over again is surely preferable to landfills which will become filled and sit for what may as well be eternity. And the products themselves being fully biodegradable would be a good aid in that regards.

    Replacing fuel, I figure there’s hydrogen and electricity and solar powers. All of those could probably be a far more effective replacement for petrol. This plastic thing though would be a move in the right direction in regards to the plastic issue, I think!

    Reply

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