The “green plastic” deception

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Manufacturing plastic in petrochemical factories consumes about 270 million tons of oil and gas every year worldwide. The eco community has long held that there was a greener, more environmentally friendly source of plastic-like material: We could grow it, in the form of corn cellulose or fibers in other organic crops. But the bioscience giants like Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and Cargill found that their efforts to produce an organic plastic substitute from converted plant sugars were too difficult and the profit margins too low to continue. So now the genetic whizbangers, instead of finding another substance to replace plastic, are growing man-made plastic fibers inside plants and even bacteria, in much the same way they are “growing” innoculations inside potatoes.

There’s a big problem with this approach, it seems, according to the latest issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. The article, written by two bioengineers involved in developing these pseudo “green plastic” technologies, suggests that even plant-sourced bioengineered plastics emit much more methane and carbon dioxide when they biodegrade than do organic materials, and such plastics still require fossil-fuelled machinery to be extracted from the host plants.

Hey, but if it’s profitable, expect to be sold a green bill of goods with that next liter bottle of Coke.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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