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Biodegradable plastics breakthrough creates plastic tableware from cornstarch

Thursday, August 24, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: plastics, biodegradable packaging, environmental protection

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(NewsTarget) A California start-up company has found a way to produce plastic items -- such as forks, knives, cups and food packaging -- from a cornstarch compound, rather than traditional petroleum-based compounds.

Frederic Scheer -- CEO of Santa Monica-based Cereplast -- found a way to make organic plastic materials that can decompose in a landfill in anywhere from 60 days to three years. While three years may seem like a long time, Scheer says his products dissolve far faster than regular plastics, which can take more than 100 years to fully decompose.

"Our resin is primarily designed for products to be composted," Scheer says. "It will go back to water, CO2 and biomass (often) in less than 60 days."

In addition to Cereplast products being far friendlier to the environment than regular plastics, they are also as cheap or cheaper to produce than petroleum-based plastics -- especially with gas prices on a long-term climb.

"In the past, one of the problems was everybody wants to be green, but nobody can afford it," Scheer says. "We believe we are the same price or lower."

Cereplast has successfully pitched its products to disposable-cup giant Solo, which will begin selling a paper cup coated with Cereplast later this year. Cereplast's products were also favored at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, where Scheer won a contract to supply the games with utensils made of biodegradable starch. In October, Scheer will fly to Beijing to pitch his products to 2008 Olympics organizers.

Though Cereplast hopes to be able to produce a billion pounds of resin per year within five or six years, Scheer says it will still be a small provider in the overall plastics scheme, since petroleum-based plastic companies sell roughly 115 billion pounds of resin a year in the United States alone. However, Scheer predicts the biodegradable plastics industry will become more and more viable as fuel prices rise, since organic plastics require less fuel to create.


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