Green algae used to make plastics that don't contain petroleum

Get ready for green plastic bottles and cutlery. Green algae, the photosynthetic organism used as a biofuel, has now been put to use as sustainable bioplastic.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

You've heard of silverware and plasticware, but greenware or bioware?

That's another story.

Green algae, the photosynthetic organism used as a biofuel, has now been put to use as sustainable bioplastic.

Sustainable plastic manufacturer Cereplast announced that it can turn algae into a sustainable bioplastic resin, to be put to use in water bottles, plasticware and other applications.

The company, which already manufactures plastic from corn, potatoes, tapioca and wheat, says algae-based plastic could replace up to 50 percent of petroleum content found in traditional plastic resin. That's a big deal, since more than 15 billion pounds of plastic film are manufactured each year in the U.S. alone, a $12 billion industry.

The problem with all that plastic: it's not biodegradeable and fills landfills, it relies on increasingly-depleted fossil fuels, it uses energy and increases greenhouse gas emissions. If a big company like ConAgra were to make the switch, the impact would be felt across the economy.

But algae must still be sourced. Cereplast plans to get it from companies that use algae to minimize carbon dioxide emissions from polluting smokestacks. In this case, the algae serves as a biopolymer on the opposite end of the manufacturing pipeline -- instead of reducing pollution from the creation of traditional plastic, it's helping create less-polluting plastic from the get-go.

“Based on our own efforts, as well as recent commitments by major players in the algae field, we believe that algae has the potential to become one of the most important “green” feedstocks for biofuels, as well as bioplastics,” said Frederic Scheer, founder and CEO of Cereplast, in a statement. "However, for our algae-based resins to be successful, we require the production of substantial quantities of algae feedstock.”

Cereplast's algae-based bioplastic is still under development, but the company expects to make commercial algae bioplastic resin available by the end of next year. If a major company were to adopt the new material -- which hopefully is at a cost that is competitive with traditional materials -- you might find your beverages delivered in green, not clear, bottles.

[via] Pictured: Samsung's E200Eco mobile phone, which is partially made of  corn-based bioplastic.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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