Plants Make Plastics
Plastic bags made of corn are “popping” up in all kids of places: Restaurants, sporting events, and even concerts. Corn plastic is also being substituted for oil-based plastic in the production of everyday objects like cups, clothes, and containers.
Corn plastic is a bioplastic which is a plastic made from plant materials. Scientists found that they could use kernels of corn to create polylactic acid plastic that can be melted into many forms, or even spun into fibers. Corn plastic was developed as a less expensive, stronger bioplastic that could compete with oil-based plastics.
Corn Will Outlast Oil Reserves
Corn plastic can be made from a renewable, sustainable resource instead of a fossil fuel like oil. The US uses 2 million barrels of oil per day just to make plastic! Oil reserves will run out in the near future, but crops of corn will grow for thousands of years, as long as they have sun and water.
The Good and the Bad of Corn Plastics
The creation of corn plastic releases less toxins and greenhouse gases into the air. Corn plastic can biodegrade in a composting facility, unlike normal plastics that hang around for hundreds of years. And burning corn plastic doesn’t create any toxic fumes.
The problem with corn plastic is that it needs a really moist, hot setting to decompose. Hotter than what you would find in your compost pile at home. And corn plastic bags, which look similar to standard bags, can contaminate plastic recycling facilities with their different chemical makeup.
Which is the Better Bag?
Bioplastics is a young, growing industry with long-term plans of only using waste from plants, like stalks and husks, for production. It doesn’t have the years of research and production know how that the cheaper, oil-based bags do. But eventually, their production costs will go down while oil-based bag costs increase because of rising oil costs and shrinking oil reserves.
So, if it’s between paper, plastic, or corn…make mine corn plastic, please!