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These plant-based bottles could mean the end of plastic waste

Published May 21st, 2020 2:13PM EDT
plastic alternatives
Image: Malcolm Schuyl/Flpa/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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  • A new plastic alternative made of plant sugars could replace traditional bottles while being more environmentally-friendly.
  • The bottles, which were developed by a company called Avantium and are strong enough to hold carbonated liquids, can degrade in as little as one year. 
  • In comparison, traditional plastics can last for decades even under the harshest environmental conditions.
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Plastics are both one of mankind’s greatest inventions and also one of its most embarrassing failures. Plastics are all around us, and that’s the problem. They’re not just in your home, they’re stuck in your bushes outside, floating down a nearby river, and piling up in the middle of the ocean.

The biggest problem is that plastics last a long, long time. They’re durable and cheap, making them great for everyday use, but we’re terrible at keeping track of them. A new plant-based alternative could change things for the better and prevent even more plastic waste from piling up in landfills and abroad.

As The Guardian reports, a company in the Netherlands has developed a plastic-like product that is made from plant sugars. Most plastics are made using either crude oil or natural gas, both fossil fuels that come with their own baggage. The company, Avantium, thinks its plant-based plastic bottles could act as a direct stand-in for plastic bottles, and they would be a whole lot better for the environment, too.

The bottles, which have already caught the eye of Carlsberg, a beer company, are designed to fully degrade within a year in a composter, and within a few years if left out in the elements. The beermaker is planning on using the plant-based material as a liner for the inside of cardboard beer bottles which would break down easily if they ever ended up as loose trash.

The company says that its “plant plastic” is strong enough to hold the pressure of carbonated beverages as well, opening the door for use with soda and other carbonated drinks. The project has also attracted attention from Coca-Cola.

Now, three years might sound like a long time to wait for a piece of trash to decompose, but consider the alternative. Researchers have already shown that even under the most favorable conditions — direct sunlight, which helps break down the molecules of plastic faster than anything else in the environment — it still takes decades for the material to decompose. Three years is nothing in comparison.

Of course, overhauling a world that is already dominated by plastics is going to be a challenge. One company offering a suitable alternative isn’t going to be enough to turn the tide, but it’s a start. We’ve already seen the devastating effects of plastics in the environment, and now’s the time to do something about it.

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