Apparently, we’ve figured out how to turn corn into plastic.
Following some similar lines to the discussion raging in the Bad Idea post, this brings up some interesting issues surrounding the future of agriculture in the U.S. As the article mentions, the Energy Department wants to convert 25 percent of chemical manufacturing to an agricultural base by 2030. So if a lot of our farmland begins producing crops for manufacturing (and biofuels) instead of consumable food, what will that do to the produce market? What will it mean for soil and water quality, biodiversity, and community health, since these crops would almost certainly not be produced organically, or have pesticide and herbicide standards anywhere near those required for consumable food?
I would like to say that I see a lot of benefit to making plastic out of corn rather than petroleum products. Especially in light of all the recent noise about health hazards associated with using plastic bottles, it seems like it could remedy a lot of public health concerns while reducing the demand for petroleum.
As long as we’re not screwing up the environment in other ways in the process …
Update [2005-7-14 9:34:41 by Corey McKrill]:
Rose Miller’s article, One Word: Corn, over on Utne Web Watch, has lots of details regarding various efforts utilize corn and other agricultural products to produce plastic, including Motorola’s plan to make a biodegradeable cell-phone case that will grow a flower when planted in the ground (just one example of how to mitigate the effects of millions of used cell-phones). She also links to this post (thanks Rose)!