By: Tina Casey
Not this year but maybe next, that plastic wrap in your kitchen drawer could be made of sustainable bioplastic from algae instead of petroleum. Bioplastics manufacturer Cereplast, Inc. has just announced that it should be ready to take its new Cereplast Algae Plastics to market by the end of 2010.
Cereplast’s move into algae could make a huge difference in the bioplastics industry, which until now has drawn its feedstock mainly from conventional food crops like corn and potatoes. Among other benefits, the use of algae opens up the possibility of siting carbon-consuming algae “farms” where they can neutralize greenhouse gas emissions from factories or power plants.
Cereplast and Algae Bioplastic
Cereplast has already made a name for itself with compostable bioplastics made from food starches including corn, tapioca, wheat, and potatoes. The company sees non-food crops as the next frontier. The biofuel industry has been hungrily eyeing algae oil for a number of years because its potential yield per acre could range up to 15,000 gallons, compared to only 50 gallons for soybeans and 130 for rapeseed. The hitch, until now, is developing a cost effective method for growing algae and harvesting the oil.
Bioplastics and the U.S. Military
Cereplast expects its algae bioplastic to replace 50% or more of the petroleum content in conventional plastics, with a particular emphasis on single-use applications in the food industry. That fits right into the U.S. military’s move away from petroleum products. The military has been getting a lot of press for its growing use of biofuels, and it has also been exploring bioplastic food packaging as a way to cut the cost and impact of food service at bases.
More Carbon Sucking Plastics in the Future
Algae bioplastic is one route to a future that turns the traditional plastics-carbon equation on its head. The U.S. Department of Energy is also funding a new venture by Myriant Technologies LLC to the tune of up to $50 million, to develop and commercialize a bio-based method for making succinic acid that absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces. Succinic acid is the feedstock for innumerable products including plastic car parts, computer casing and shoe soles.
Image: Plastic food container art by D P R on flickr.com.