Wildlife Peril Eased : Degradable Plastics Now on Market
Experts say the ideal plastic juggernaut container, foam coffee cup, or disposable diaper should look much like Oliver Wendell Holmes\'s \"a wonderful piece\" Hoss shay, \"it ran perfectly in 100 before it crashed in a brief mess. For example, a foam cup should keep the coffee warm until it is empty and then break down into thousands of tiny pieces, whether in a trash can or on the side of the road. Alas, this cup is better than shay\'s. It will last for 100 and then for 100 and 100. The sun does not age it; Wind and rain will not weaken it; Bacteria don\'t eat it. Abandoned plastic cups and their relatives will be almost forever, a stain on the landscape and a danger to eating it or getting involved in the wildlife. But this may change soon. Spurred by aesthetic and environmental issues and political pressures, some companies are starting to produce plastics that, in fact, will increase Trapped so that they can be broken down by sunlight or bacteria. So far, the use of this new type of biodegradable plastic is limited: in one brand of garbage bags and one of three six brands Pack your bags in the United States and pack a small portion of your garbage and grocery bags in Europe. However, many other companies that have already produced plastic packaging materials, bottles, diapers and similar products are testing degradation materials and may launch this product later this year. Environmental protection activists and others hope that this increased interest, as well as new laws restricting ocean dumping, can greatly reduce the amount of plastic waste and the danger to wildlife. According to Anthony Redpath, president of Eco Corp, biodegradable plastic materials now account for less than 2% of all solid waste in the United States. A plastic manufacturer in Toronto, Canada But it\'s not no problem to degrade plastics. Plastic product manufacturers are concerned that, despite assurances from plastic producers, degradation will lose strength or be attacked prematurely by bacteria and fungi. Redpath says they are 5% to 7% more expensive than regular plastic. On the Atlantic Ocean off the northeast coast of the United States, there are more than 46,000 pieces of plastic floating on the surface of the water per square mile, including ropes, fishing nets and plastic cloth, according to a survey by the Woods Hole Institute of Marine Research 1987. Abandoned fishing nets and lines are wrapped around the propellers of commercial vessels, which takes expensive time Consumption maintenance. Marine biologist James M. said: \"The irony is that most of this plastic is legally dumped by other ships that pollute their environment . \" Coe, Director, Office of Marine entanglement, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to the National Academy of Sciences, commercial and fishing boats around the world dump nearly 500,000 tons of garbage each year. The impact on marine life is particularly serious, Coe added. As many as 30,000 northern fur seals each year, accounting for more than 5% of the total population, have been killed by plastic ropes, fishing nets and transport belts. All seven species of turtles are considered endangered or threatened, largely because they take in plastic waste. Through an international agreement prohibiting the dumping of commercial vessels and fishing vessels at sea, such pollution at sea may be reduced. The treaty was negotiated and approved by the US government in 1973. S. Congress last November It will be effective annually after approval by at least 15 countries, accounting for half of the world\'s shipping tonnage. The U. S. Ratification is in line with these conditions and the treaty will enter into force on next November. Some places are also considering banning the use of non- Degradation of plastic. The Berkeley City Council has asked businesses Biodegradable food packaging before 1990. Suffolk County, N. Y. Fast has been proposed to be banned- Food packaging made of two Plastics, New York State requires the country\'s largest fast food McDonald\'s Food chain, phase out all plastic packaging. America\'s interest in degraded plastics is not alone. Italy, for example, stipulates that all plastic groceries and shopping bags can be degraded by 1990, and similar laws are being considered in other European countries. Cities in Florence and Venice ban Bags that can be degraded last summer. Ironically, degradation is the opposite of performance, especially inertia and durability, and plastics have been valued since they were developed towards the end of World War II. Super long polymer molecules that make up plastic cannot be digested by bacteria or other microorganisms that naturally exist in the environment, and are not affected by sunlight. In order for this plastic to be biodegradable, chemists must place tiny time bombs in the polymer, combining molecules that \"detonate\" when exposed to sunlight or bacteria, break the plastic down into smaller molecules that can naturally degrade in a few weeks or months. The process is a delicate balance: if the time bomb explodes too fast, the contents of the package may be destroyed; Too late, the advantage of degradation is lost. Most of the studies of degradation polymers involve precise determination of the correct number of additives needed to achieve the life of a particular product. Six- The main example of this method is for six- A pack of soda and beer. Once discarded, these carriers can kill animals and fish, or wrap them around in a way that prevents them from eating. 11 states since 1977- Including California in 1982- The carrier has been authorized to be made of degraded plastic. Due to quirks in the distribution system, about one Third, all states now accept beverages with biodegradable carriers. \"Common sense suggests that this must help with the condition of wildlife,\" said Kathy O\'Hara, a marine biologist at the Washington Center for Environmental Education. She said the only available evidence about the legal impact came from the beach clean-up that took place last year. In California and Oregon, where degradation carriers are needed, volunteers found an average of 15 carriers per mile and 4 carriers per mile on the beach. In Texas, where there is no such law, the average is 106 kilometers per mile. The carrier is biodegradable. - They are broken down by ultraviolet rays from the sun. This is achieved by regularly inserting carbon monoxide molecules into the polymer chain. Carbon monoxide absorbs ultraviolet rays and breaks down to weaken the plastic. Sunlight is necessary because the indoor light does not produce UV radiation, and the window of the store shields it until the carrier is left in the sun, the fault does not begin. In the summer of Southern California, when the sun is the largest, the carrier will begin to lose power in three days. \"It still (looks like)a carrier . . . \"But it\'s not a package anymore,\" said Harry F, a material engineer . \" Pullman tools, Illinois. A company that makes aircraft carriers. After 250 hours of exposure to the sun, it is too fragile to handle without crashing. In the United States, the only other consumer goods made of degraded plastic are well-aware garbage bags sold by mass company pebodi\'s Webster Industries in the east. Spokesman Donna McEntyre said that this biodegradable bag has been sold in the Northeast for six years, but the company has been expanding its marketing space to deal with new environmental issues. These bags cost about 10 cents per box, lower than competitive products, with a market share of up to 10% in northeastern cities such as Boston. McEntyre said the product was deliberately priced lower in order to gain market share. Eco Corp. Make an additive that makes the plastic light-soluble. Grocery and garbage bags made of this additive account for 1% of total European bag sales, Redpath said. Safeway Corp. 50 million grocery bags have been ordered for use in selected stores in Western Canada. Canada has approved canadaplatics made from this additive, and Canada\'s health and welfare department has approved the use with foodS. Food and Drug Administration, which has filled out orders for 2 million foam cups that will be used to distribute Coca Redpath says there\'s Coke in the convenience store. Eco Corp. Working with other manufacturers looking to produce soda straws quickly Food packaging and condoms, he added. A new type of biodegradable plastic, made by mixing cheap corn starch with traditional plastic, shows great prospects for disposable products such as packaging materials and diapers- A technique pioneered by chemist Felix H. Otey of the U. S. The Ministry of Agriculture research station in Peoria. The starch- The plastic mixture can melt and form products like pure plastic. When the product made of the mixture is discarded, the starch is eaten by bacteria and fungi everywhere in the soil and air. This weakens the plastic and breaks it into small pieces. \"We can make a seedling basin, break the ground in 20 days, or make an agricultural covering that lasts four months, and then degrade it catastrophic so that it can (plowed) Richard P, a material scientist, said. University of Illinois at Champaign woolUrbana. Wool is director of agricultural research Technology industry Corporation I\'m a patient in Gibson. Exclusive license with Ministry of Agriculture patent. Although there is no commercial product made of these starch yet More than 100 manufacturers of garbage and grocery bags, food packaging, diapers and sanitary products are experimenting with these plastics, Wool said. He expects garbage bags made of plastic to be available by the end of this year, and perhaps agricultural films. Farmers use a covering of about 0. 125 billion a year to spread between rows of crops to curb weed growth and maintain heat and water in the soil. Wool said, but the cost of collecting and processing the film at the end of the growing season is greater than the cost of the film itself. The ideal choice for fast food is also starch- Plastic is the ideal packaging for fast food, but agriculture Technology must first seek FDA approval. A McDonald\'s spokesman will only say that the company is \"exploring all alternatives\" and is concerned about increased costs. And corn starch. and- Use a plastic mixture different from Agricultural technology The technology company is by St. Lawrence Starch, Ltd. Canada in Missy. St. Wayne J. , business development manager, said Lawrence also had about 1% of the European market for garbage and grocery bags. Maddever and Bio- Last month, guard garbage bags made of it went public in Canada. St. Maddever said Lawrence Starch also wanted to start using it for milk bottles and for its own corn oil and corn syrup bottles.