Can algae-based plastics reduce our plastic footprint?

Cereplast wants to make plastic entirely from algae. The company is close — it is ready to go commercial after developing a hybrid algae plastic material. The only thing holding it back is a plentiful supply of algae.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

The oil spill is making algae-based biofuels so much more desirable. Not that they weren't before, but one plastic making company takes the biofuel goal one step further with an algae-based plastic product in sight.

Cereplast CEO Frederic Scheer is holding a hybrid algae plastic in his hands. The prototype is made with 30 to 50 percent algae powder and the rest with polypropylene or another resin. Obviously, the company wants to make a 100 percent algae plastic. But that won't be possible for at least another 3 years.

Popular Mechanics reports:

We've got to come up with alternatives, and I do think we're going to solve it," says Bill Francis, president of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which documents the effects of stray plastic on the world's oceans. "I do believe that there will be a time when we look back and say, ‘Oh yeah, that was the plastic age. Look what we did to ourselves.' And to be honest, I think the plastic footprint is a greater risk to the health of our environment, to the people here and to the marine species for sure, than the carbon footprint."

Artificially grown algae grows relatively fast — it would two months for it to be ready to turn into an eco-friendly plastic. And the cost per pound of algae plastic is expected to be cheaper than traditional plastic prices.

However, getting enough algae seems to be the limiting factor for creating this fossil fuel free plastic product.

Imaging if Cereplast does produce the algae-based plastic as planned — it will open up the bioplastics industry, which is currently dominated by food crops like potatoes and corn.

Image: Cereplast (via Discovery News)

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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