While it may sound like a repeat of the Organic Vinyl April Fools joke from a few years ago, new bio-polymers are getting touted as a green alternative for conventional plastic. While there are some positive aspects to using plant-based feedstock rather than fossil materials, Building Green offers a strong critique of the problems still inherent in bio-PVC.
Avoiding petroleum feedstocks is a good move in general, although the diversion of food crop products is as troubling to us as it is when it is done to produce fuel. Price fluctuations and increased volatility in the oil markets make this a good business strategy for companies producing and using these plastics. But, the core question remains: "Is it greener, or is it merely greenwash?"
Although carbon issues are now closely linked with the broader green movement, carbon isn't the only deciding factor that makes something green or not. With vinyls, as Building Green writes, "The problem is that material sourcing isn't the issue with PVC--and the biggest concerns that have made PVC the subject of more debate than other polymers have come from problems on the "salt" side of the manufacturing process. Dioxins--the most potent cancer-causing chemicals known to science--are produced in large quantity in the manufacture of the vinyl chloride monomer and then again when this chlorinated plastic is burned in incinerators and uncontrolled landfill fires. Getting the polymer from a biobased source merely sugarcoats PVC without addressing the fundamental problem."
Other plastics like PET, the primary material used for carbonated beverage bottles, are also being produced from biomaterial stocks. This is more of an advantage since the resulting products are compatible with current recycling programs instead of needing to be separated as some other bioplastic containers have needed.
image credit: Cjp24/Wikimedia Commons
written by Best Man, October 20, 2012
written by Eco Friendly Guy, October 22, 2012
written by Personally Concerned, October 25, 2012
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