Trash Fashions

The Rehabilitation of Plastic




The rap on most plastic is that although it can be recycled, it doesn’t decompose in landfills. For a period of time, the city of Houston halted its composting of household yard waste due to the cost of having to cut and empty the plastic bags used in curbside pickup, even though the annual landfill fees exceeded $1 million. But now the service has resumed, based on the use of new, compostable plastic bags that require no special handling; the city even garners income from sales of composted clippings.

Dinnerware, such as utensils, plates and cups, is another niche market in which advocates see potential for use of compostable plastics, especially by cafeterias, restaurants and other institutions. Not only are such items not biodegradable, they often end up being thrown out with food waste.

Biodegradable polymers that break down in a matter of months are more expensive; for example, the BASF company’s Ecoflex material costs about two-and-a-half times more than the polyethylene it replaces. But proponents say that it provides value by enabling the largescale collection of organic waste, such as grass clippings and food, and that the potential for growth is enormous.


Source: Chemical & Engineering News

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