Food vs Bioplastics Debate

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  • #36524
    Axel Barrett
    Keymaster

    QUESTION by T.L

    I live in Australia, and as a manufacturer, we receive a lot of inquiries from customers and retailers.  What do you think about the ethical/moral side of using crops to manufacture plastics while we have approximately 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life and 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished? – Mars have a sustainability statement not to use packaging made of crops while we have hungry people.”

    #36696
    Michael Stephen
    Participant

    I agree. It does not make sense to use scarce land and water resources to make plastic, when we can make it from a by-product of refining oil, which is extracted to make fuels, and would be extracted whether plastic existed or not. The only problem with plastic is that it can lie or float around for decades if it gets into the open environment, and this is the reason for plastiphobia, but this is a problem which can be solved without depriving people of plastic. All we need to do is to make the plastic according to ASTM D6954 so that it will biodegrade much more quickly in the open environment than ordinary plastic.

    #36701
    Axel Barrett
    Keymaster

    COMMENT made by Michael Thielen

    According to European Bioplastics we currently only need 0.016% of the arable land of this planet. (see graph at link removed). for 2024 EUBP projects a need of 0.021% of the arable land.

    Hunger is not a questoin of availability of food (we have enough food to feed 12 billion people, only we (in the western world) throw away 45% of our food). Hunger is a question of distribution, speculation, wars etc.

    Oxo additives to conventional plastics, that by the way also contribute 7% of the global CO2 emmissions (projected to be 15% in 2050), are not a solution.

    #36703
    Michael Stephen
    Participant

    I don’t think we can dismiss the reader’s concerns quite so easily about the use of arable land.

    The world currently manufactures 320 million tonnes of plastic per year, and it is obvious that a really huge amount of arable land and water and fossil fuels and fertilisers and pesticides would be needed to grow enough crops to make anything like that quantity of bio-based plastic.

    Anyway, we don’t need to use these resources to make plastic, as it can be made from a by-product of refining oil to make fuels.

    I don’t understand how plastics made with oxo technology could contribute 7% of global CO2, but I do understand that bio-based plastics designed to comply with EN13432 or ASTMD6400 have to convert as to 90% into CO2 gas within 180 days.

    Even worse, if they get deep inside a landfill they generate methane, which is a very powerful greenhouse gas.

    Yes, food-wastage is a problem, and the latest report from the Green Alliance says that this will get worse, and CO2 emissions will increase, if we move away from plastics to other packaging materials such as paper.

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