Times change. When plastic was first developed at the beginning of the 20th century, it was considered nothing less than a “wonder product.” But now, we wonder how to get rid of it.
The standard plastic bag does not biodegrade, and by various estimates, is photodegradable only within 500 to 1,000 years. What’s more is according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), about 5 percent of total annual American petrochemical consumption goes into the production of plastic, so it contributes to fossil fuel dependence.
Now a company has developed a corn-based bioplastic that is both biodegradable and reusable. Ecospan, a global technology firm with operations in Greenbrae, California and Exton, Pennsylvania, has created a material called BioFlow that takes bioplastics to the next level. Based on peer-reviewed studies, the production of BioFlow uses 80 percent fewer fossil fuels and emits 65 percent less greenhouse gases than traditional petrochemical-based plastics.
Ecospan has become the first company in the United States to integrate bioplastics throughout a “closed-loop supply chain” – a system in which some or all of the output ultimately is used as input.
Consumer goods manufactured with BioFlow (such as cups, cosmetic tubes and cases, computer and cell phone housing and accessories, and toys) can be:
- Physically recycled
- Industrially composted
- Chemically converted back to lactic acid through hydrolysis (feedstock recovery)
- Composted (disposed of in landfills)
Ecospan works with customers to improve existing processes or create new processes in order to create a closed loop. “In most cases,” Ecospan states on its Web site, “we can dramatically improve [our customers’] return on investment.…Products at the end of their life can be returned to Ecospan and put into a regrind process to make other products, in a cradle-to-cradle scenario.”
Setting itself apart from other bioplastics material companies, Ecospan delivers its proprietary renewable resins and production molds to production facilities anywhere in the world, making local manufacturing possible. This significantly reduces transportation costs for its clients and mitigates the risk in volatile fuel prices, while reducing green house gas emissions.
“We are taking sustainability in plastics to the next frontier,” said Ecospan President Jeff White. “Up to this point, sustainability in durable goods has meant recycling; renewable energy, where possible; and less packaging. The breakthrough is that we can now replace the petroleum-based plastic material, itself, with renewable, bio-based plastics and then – with our regrind and reuse model – keep these same materials in the supply chain; which saves our customers millions of dollars, while achieving their sustainability goals.”
Edited by Braden Becker