Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Biodegradable corn plastic?

When Al Gore made "Green" the word of the day, I was worried that the fad that was sure to follow would actually weaken the real movement. But I thought it would at least bring it onto more peoples radar. I believe I was right on both accounts. With the complete and thorough lack of ethics in advertising, corporate America didn't disappoint and stuck a "Green" label on everything they possibly could. Being the skeptic that I am, I question quite a few things.

Spring has sprung here in SE North Carolina and I have been out getting some dirt under my fingernails. While digging in a flower bed I found this plastic bottle made from corn that I buried back in 2007. Now I'm sure that making a plastic bottle out of corn is more than likely better than making it out of petroleum, but this bottle obviously did not return completely to the earth in 60 days as advertised. I remember leaving the bottle out in the sun for a month or two then I partially buried it, where it has remained until now. Is it actually made from corn? Was any testing done?

I don't really have a point. I just thought a bottle buried for a couple of years deserved to have it's story heard.


Danny Clark said...

Steve, that is a great experiment. However, I think you are going to be seeing that bottle for a long time. Plastics made from corn (PLA) only break down in professional composting facilites where moisture and temp (140F) can be maintained. These bottles will take decades to break down in nature and will take just as long as regular plastic to break down in a landfill. They also cannot be recycled.

Max said...

Ah, you've discovered the secret. PLA (Corn starch plastics) don't biodegrade....they must be composted at a commercial composting facility. At a commercial site the plastic is mixed with other wet compost and kept at 140 (f) and turned on a regular schedule. That PLA bottle and all other PLA plastic won't biodegrade in a landfill and you can't compost it in your back yard composter.


Steve Brimm said...

Thanks for that info guys!

Most people don't have or take the time to research every purchase and decision they make, so they grab the product that promises an ideal that is only a half truth at best. I think they call that bait and switch.

If it takes that much energy to degrade something, is it better to buy plastic made from petroleum and at least be able to recycle it? You know, make some deck boards or a fleece jacket? Don't worry, I'm not overlooking the obvious practice of doing without or using re-usable containers etc.

My Father has to be one of the most honest people I have ever met. If Corporate America was 1/10th as honest as my father, I don't believe we would be in this briar patch we find ourselves in the middle of today.

Thanks for fanning the spark!

Michele said...

I guess we'd have to dig pretty deep to be able to find that 140 degrre temp-- truly the bait and switch advertising!! Hmmmmmm