Have you ever thought what would life be like without fossil fuels? It’s easy to see how we might replace burning fossil fuels for electricity with alternatives and use electric cars instead of petrol or diesel ones. But what about plastics? Plastics are everywhere around us and almost all of it comes from fossil oil and gas. Packaging, bags, clothes, toys, cases, pens, toothbrushes, disposable cups, some furniture and building materials, sofas, car interiors, cooking utensils, light fittings, … and the list goes on and on and on!

It is possible to make plastics from plant waste from farms or from other crops. This is called bioplastics. The bio is because it is from natural plants. Some bioplastics degrade easily – they biodegrade – and when we use these for packaging and bags we know we will not be creating waste islands in the oceans!

We do need to be careful that our need for plants for plastics doesn’t add extra pressure on land being used for food production or accelerate deforestation. However if we are just using waste then that pressure is low.

Some plastic needs to last much longer and the bioplastics for building materials and car interiors can’t degrade so quickly. There is still much work to be done to make good quality plastics cheaply from plants. When this happens, we can reduce even more our use of fossil oil and gas.

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Plastic made from corn starch
Bioplastics are made from biomass. These bags are made from corn starch.