The Future of Plastics
December 15, 2009 by The Dove
More than 40 years after the well-known one-liner, “Just One Word: Plastics” from Mike Nichols classic movie The Graduate, the presence of plastics in society has evolved from a manufacturing wonder material to a hazardous consumer concern.
Petroleum is in almost every product that we use in our daily lives. In fact, plastics use as much of the imported petroleum as the jet fuel industry does (approximately 8 percent each). It takes about 100 millions years for the earth to produce just one drop of oil, but it takes most people about 45 minutes to use a disposable cup, only to be sent off to a landfill for 500 years.
Cereplast, Inc., a pioneering renewable plastics company, designs and manufactures proprietary bio-based, sustainable plastics created from their cutting-edge breakthrough technology. This technology produces bio-based resins used to replace a significant portion of the petroleum-based additives in plastics by using natural material from starches such as tapioca, corn, wheat and potatoes.
For example, Safety 1st-Nature Next, is using Cereplast resins in their new line of bio-plastic products including the 3-in1 potty, booster seats, bathtubs and stools.
Mr. Frederic Scheer, founder and CEO of Cereplast and an 18-year veteran of the bio-plastics industry is spoke to The Green Dove about bio-plastics and how his company is busy making the resins for products ranging from plastic cutlery (they provided plastic foodservice items at the Salt Lake City Olympics), to product packaging and household items.
What do most people not know about traditional plastics that wrap much of their supermarket-purchased food?
90% of all wrappers used to wrap the fruits and vegetables in supermarkets are made in Asia, meaning that the life cycle assessment does not show such products as environmental-friendly. The safety might be also questionable, especially from plastics made in certain Asian countries that do not have the same stringent regulations on toxicity and health concerns.
How does the wrapping affect/contaminate our food?
Toxic chemicals, such as BPA, may be found in some plastics. Those chemicals then can leech out into the food and other plastic container and therefore contaminate it. Now so far science is very divided and no-one can confirm that it is dangerous. But in such a doubt Cereplast policy is to say lets abstain. Cereplasts resins contain no BPA.
Do you believe our throw-away culture will ever end?
I do believe that this culture will eventually phase out. I think it is important to remember that we live in a fast-paced world, so disposable products not only appeal to us because they are easy and require little to no effort, but they are also a quick solution. I am confident that the world is moving toward sustainability. It is a very slow process. But, we are using reusable shopping bags now and starting to bring lunch in the same container to work each day. The desire to become more eco-friendly is definitely there, it is just a question as to when this plan of action will actually start taking action, and I believe that it already has. Cereplast is informing consumers of the importance of taking responsibility for their products and methods of disposal. We are moving forward and rewriting the definition of “plastic.”
What is your background in the plastics industry?
Oh, I’ve been in the biodegradable plastics industry for more than two decades. In 1994 I became involved in the industry through Montedison SpA, a large chemical conglomerate operating Novamont SpA, an Italian resin manufacturer and research company. I could see even then, that the demand for biodegradable products would expand rapidly by the end of the decade, so I secured the exclusive distribution rights in North America for Mater-BiĄ