I remember it as though it were yesterday. Never forget the shocked silence coming from the other end of the line.
I was on the phone with an executive of a major producer of plastic containers. I had just told her she'd better find another line of work because the day was coming when plastic bags and containers would be banned from use.
She was silent for a moment and then blurted out that I was crazy. Plastic was good for people and what was good for people was good for the Earth she opined. I strongly differed and flatly asserted the day would never come when plastic would be considered Earth-friendly.
That was then. Back in my misguided youth. I had not yet learned the futility of using the world never. Leave it to good old Italian ingenuity to prove me wrong every time.
American ingenuity? Well the subject wasn't about oil now was it? When it comes to finding new and different uses for petroleum and petroleum by-products, we are tops. Especially when you are talking plastics made from petroleum. But this is about something else.
It's about "Mater-Bi™".
Mater-Bi™ is produced by Novamont, an Italian research company dedicated to finding environmental alternatives to petroleum-based plastics. Mater-Bi™ is the first completely biodegradable and compostable bio-polymer ever invented. It is protected by more than 50 patents. It is made from GMO free corn starch, vegetable oil and other renewable resources of plant origin.
Something like Mater-Bi™ was bound to happen. But back when I was preaching ruin and damnation to petroleum based plastic producers it was hardly dreamed of. That's the problem with preaching. It rarely takes into consideration such things as Italian ingenuity.
Mater-Bi™, or bioplastic, was bound to happen. Because of European market demands if for no other reason. Consumers and governments in Europe were concerned about the environmental impact of traditional petroleum by-products long before such things began to matter here in the USA. They have begun to matter. Haven't they?
The bioplastic developed by Novamont comes from renewable resources. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the consumption of energy. And it really does biodegrade like any other natural organic material.
Imagine the implications!
When natural organic matter goes into the ground, it tends to decompose progressively. In other words, it literally disappears!
This is the way nature gets rid of waste to make room for new life.
Trees, plants, algae, and so on, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Using light and heat from the sun, these photosynthetic organisms synthesize sugars and a whole range of other substances that pass along the food chain from plants to herbivores to carnivores.
Micro-organisms feed on the organic waste of these life forms, further breaking it down and completing the cycle by releasing carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.
The process of biodegradation is as important as photosynthesis. The two represent both the outcome and the starting point of an essential natural cycle that has work well for millennia. That is until things like traditional plastic bags and other petroleum based products entered the mix. For some reason they have clogged the system and threaten the balance of nature.
This is a polite way of saying we are fouling our own nest with mounds of toxic leaching trash. Which is why new age biodegradable raw materials like Mater-Bi™ are so important to the future of most living things and the environment.
We can now make all kinds of alternative "plastic" products such as bags and other containers that will simply and safely disappear when placed in the compost pile. One more pillar of petroleum dependency has been forever removed. In it's place stands an example of human ingenuity at it's best.
What could only be dreamed of once upon a time is now reality. Great news for those who are fearful of a future without petroleum. And even better news for those of us who fear a future with it.
Our greatest resource is and always has been the human mind. When we conceive of a possibility it becomes a probability. Nothing worthwhile is ever beyond our reach. Not even a future when plastic really is Earth-friendly.
That future is now!
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