The Plastic Problem
We have a plastic problem. Pollution from traditional plastics is found everywhere, and the process used to manufacture plastic releases harmful greenhouse gases. Only 9% of plastics are recycled, and the rest are buried in landfills or incinerated, releasing toxic chemicals.
Additionally, plastic litter is washed into storm drains and rivers, and eventually the ocean. The equivalent of one garbage truck-worth of plastic trash ends up in the sea every minute. Our plastic use is expected to quadruple by 2050 at which point plastics will outweigh fish in the ocean.
One solution is to make sustainable plastics from renewable resources like plants. American farmers grow various crops like corn, soybeans, and sugarcane, then agriculture companies separate these plants into their components like starch and sugar.
Scientists and engineers convert these components into plant-based materials used to create single-use serviceware, food packaging, or consumer product packaging, or durable bioproducts like car parts, laptop shells, and cell phone. Many of these products can be composted, while others are recyclable or biodegradable.
This process is known as the circular bioeconomy – keeping our resources in use for as long as possible. It reduces greenhouse gases, improves water quality, advances soil quality, and limits landfill waste and litter. Additionally, it presents new economic opportunities for rural America in the form of tens of thousands of high-quality manufacturing and STEM-related jobs.
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