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Go Green Use Bio-Plastic

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May 12, 2010 – Comments (5) | RELATED TICKERS: ADM , MBLX

Can you imagine all the commercials we will see for that in the coming years. But one thing is for sure its alot easier to switch from a plastic bottle to a Bio-plastic bottle than it is to switch from a gasoline car to an electric car. So thats one go green thing that I can actually follow.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/metabolix-jumps-on-fda-approval-2010-05-12?siteid=yhoof2

5 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On May 12, 2010 at 3:37 PM, TMFLomax (50.23) wrote:

This is really interesting! Thanks for posting.

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#2) On May 12, 2010 at 7:53 PM, ChrisGraley (29.72) wrote:

It's a good idea but....

Where I work, we started a "Green initiative" one of the decisions made was to get rid of all the styro-foam coffee cups and  the company bought every employee a coffee cup made with a corn based plastic. (We did switch to paper coffee cups for guest use.)

I thought this was a great idea and had already been using a regular plastic coffee cup myself. I put the corn based cup on my desk and vowed to use it when I retired the old cup. The problem is that the biodegradable cup bio-degraded on my desk! I had not used it once, but the inside had a coating of a strange white powder after about 4 months and there were visible voids on the outside of the cup that appeared.. Co-workers also complained about the cups dissolving in the dishwasher, melting in the microwave and melting from hot coffee.

I then started to think about the chemicals involved in turning corn into plastic. If a hot liquid can degrade the cup, where are those chemicals going when I'm drinking out of it? 

I have left the cup to continue to degrade on my desk as a sort of science experiment, but I think I'll continue to use plastic cups and throw them into the recycling bin when they retire.

I try to be green when it's practical, but risking my health isn't part of deal. 

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#3) On May 14, 2010 at 5:36 PM, kristinltaylor (< 20) wrote:

Chris,

The problem with your "corn based plastic" coffee cup was that it was probably PLA (polylactic acid).  The PaperMate Biodegradable line is made from Mirel (PHB) which is significantly different.  PLA has a service use temperature of around 115 degF - clearly not adequate for hot beverages.  Mirel has a service use temperature of 230 degF. 

Mirel will not biodegrade or break down hydrolytically (as your PLA cup did) on your desk.  It only biodegrades via microbial digestion.  Microbes in the environment literally "eat" the plastic and convert it to biomass, water and CO2.  So, this pen will sit on your desk, in a hot car in August or in a glass of drinking water virtually forever.  But once Mirel is introduced into any microbial environment - compost, soil, rivers, oceans - the microbes that occur in nature eat the Mirel and cause it to biodegrade. 

So, fear not!  Write with confidence!  I hope this info is helpful.

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#4) On June 05, 2010 at 11:41 AM, lntwo (20.61) wrote:

I'm just going to add some color to Kristin's comments. As was written, a key difference in bioplastic discussion is PHA(B) versus PLA.

At this point in time, MBLX PHAs are made by cloning the genes of certain soil bacteria into other more manipulatable bacteria that are in turn feed corn sugar, which is used as food to produce PHA whereas PLAs are polymers directly derived from corn sugar modification and lactic acid polymerization and processing.  

While on the face of it it may seem that directly producing PLAs would be more efficient, their properties severely lag those of PHAs, as well as the fact that in high-demand scenarios they are in direct competition for food-stuff starches.

"But wait" you say, "are not PHAs made from corn sugar as well"?!

At this point in time, yes, but read on....

It is the multi-gene nature and clone-ability of MBLX's PHA system that is the complete game changer in bioplastics. At this time they have introduced these genes into a number of other plant-based platforms: switchgrass, canola, soy and sugarcane which will allow them to avoid zero-sum trade-offs in food production and land use, to have a biobased system that can piggyback as a value added product with food and cellulosic ethanol production. 

MBLX has enormous IP and technology lead in this area and will have switchgrass filed trials in ~2 yrs. 

I also spoke with a Labcon rep. a few weeks ago - and though this is hearsay - the rep said that Labcon wants as much as it can get of this stuff for product development and production. 

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polylactic_acid

http://www.fpintl.com/resources/wp_biodegradable_plastics.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyhydroxyalkanoates

http://tissue.medicalengineer.co.uk/pages/tissue-engineering/polyhydroxyalkanoates-for-tissue-engineering.html

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