Suppose you could drink your smoothie out of a straw made from an avocado seed? Bioplastic is an industry that develops biodegradable answers to what to do with the millions of tons of waste produced on earth annually. Only 15-20% of plants grown for food actually end up as food. What remains is used as animal feed or treated as agricultural waste. The global market for bioplastics is expected to grow by about 25% over the next five years due to increasing consumer demand for sustainable products. It is important to note that eventually, everything biodegrades, including plastic, which biodegrades first to microplastic size making it even more dangerous due to its ability to get into our food through water and animals that ingest involuntarily. According to A Plastic Planet, the critical question to ask and answer is, does it compost down to something useful or not? Can nature handle it or not? Here are some earth-friendly innovations.
Biofase, a Mexico-based bioplastic company addresses an environmental issue; what to do with 300,000 tons of avocado seeds that are discarded annually in landfills by collecting 15,000 tons of those seeds a day from companies that make avocado oil and guacamole and turning them into straws, knives, forks, and spoons that biodegrade within 240 days. By using the avocado seed, once thought to have no value Biofase gives new meaning to avocado’s reputation as the world’s most perfect food!
Grazing in the Grass
Finally, an answer as to what to do with all of that mowed grass – turn it into paper! Scheufelen, a German company has developed what is potentially the ideal paper packaging. Grass proliferates with a new crop every 60 days. It needs less water; less than one liter per ton, compared to 1000 liters per ton for wood. Zero chemicals are used in the growing of grass which means a low Co2 output, and solar power is all of the energy needed for its growth. Grass paper can be used for packaging solutions, offset printing and for commercial food and drink containers. Grass as an abundant raw material has the potential to become the go-to packaging solution around the world.
The Shrilk about Shrimp
Harvard has produced Shrilk, a shrimp-shell based product to be used in place of plastic. Shrilk is made from chitosan, a molecule found in the shells; the second most abundant organic material on earth. Shells, as a waste product from the fishing industry, decompose in a few weeks; consequently, it is a cheap fertilizer too. Shrilk is easily moldable into 3D shapes, making it ideal for mass-producing. It can be loaded into 3D printers, meaning that someday your containers and cups can be printed using your home printer.
Through the Looking Glass
Man-made glass was first produced in Egypt around 3500 BC. Once the blowpipe was created by Syrian craftsmen in the 1st century, the manufacturing of glass increased rapidly. Glass is primarily made using pure silica, sodium carbonate, and lime. As a packaging material, it leaves no after-taste, is air-tight, oven safe and sterile. Much of the glass today is a combination of recycled glass because it can be reused endlessly without losing its strength, functionality, and quality. The increased use of glass guarantees less plastic waste.
Turning Corn into Shopping bags
Novamont located in Italy created Mater-Bi, a low environmental impact material comprised of corn starch, cellulose and vegetable oils to solve specific environmental problems in the foodservice, packaging, and cosmetics industry. Mater-Bi is a biodegradable, compostable answer for the entire production-consumption-disposal cycle.