Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I think we've beat biobasing to death, haven't we?

Let's get a few things straight right off the top: I do not have a problem with compounding biobased materials into polymers [1]; I also do not have a problem with creating synthetic polymers from biobased materials, whether through polymerization of monomers (such as making PLA from corn-sourced [2] lactide), or from taking an existing biopolymer and modifying it for our needs. But can we finally call it obvious that any, and I do mean any bio-based feedstock can be used to made plastic and that there is no need to scream about the latest option as if it is so novel and revolutionary? Just this year alone we've seen dandelions, chicken feathers, chile stalks, water treatment sludge and pretty much anything short of the weeds in my backyard being used to make a polymer or a polymer composite. (I'll sell them to anybody who wants to take a shot at them.)

So can we all agree to let it rest, all the hyperventilating and hysteria about how the new feedstock is the latest and greatest, and how it is going to get us off of our nasty addiction to petroleum? Polymer chemists (and chemists in general) are very creative and we don't have to have petroleum feedstocks to work our magic.

[1] Aspen Research used to be owned by Andersen Windows, a huge producer/user of wood/PVC composites that were developed by Aspen Research.

[2] Well, I do have a problem with using a food source for production of disposable or other short-term use products. Feed everybody in the world properly, and then if we still have excess food, use it to make whatever you want.

1 comment:

agiantamongmolecules said...

I'm glad this gimmick bugs someone else too.