We have all heard about corn-based ethanol by now. What about a corn-based plastic alternative? It is out there and I have even bought cups for a picnic this summer. I threw the used ones in my home compost bin but now I'm not so sure about this stuff. An excellent article at Smithsonian Magazine goes in-depth about this product and its benefits and drawbacks . It is known as polylactic acid or PLA and can be used in many applications.
There has been a lot of criticism surrounding corn-based ethanol policy in the U.S. I have not been a big supporter (post and video)
I feel most of the support for corn ethanol is political and is not sound policy. After reading the Smithsonian article I wonder about PLA as well. However, a couple of excellent points are made in the article and should be the considered when debating alternatives to plastic: How much do we really need? Why don't we design products with a different life cycle in mind? The article is long but well worth the read.
I think we will see many alternatives in the near future that will capture our attention. However, I'm afraid that designing new products that fit the old economic model that got us here will not work like we think.
P.S. December 30, 2007
I forgot I had this video post on plastic alternatives a while ago. Enjoy.