Replace plastic with what?! The eco-materials of the future
LIFESTYLE | January 27, 2017

Replace plastic with what?! The eco-materials of the future

Wherever you're reading this, take a quick glance around you. Count the plastic-made items within your reach: don't forget credit cards, food storage, sweet wrappers, your seat on public transport, the acrylic jumper you're wearing, polyester carpets, water bottles, Biros, UPVC windows, even the phone, tablet or computer on which you're browsing the Internet.  How many items can you spot?

If you counted less than ten items within reach, you're probably in a log cabin!

Since its discovery in Victorian times, plastic has spread into every part of our lives. You could say that it's a civilisation-wide addiction and unfortunately it's not great for the health of our planet, to say the least.

Scientists are looking at solutions to the problem of plastic proliferation - try saying that quickly - I'm talking about eco-friendly plastic replacement materials, a.k.a. bioplastics. Which of these would you like to see more of in our shops?


Plastics made from... milk?

Plastic is often used to shrink wrap and bag food, however if you've ever pulled a soggy green bag of what once was salad out of the back of your fridge then you'll understand that it's not that good at keeping food fresh!

Scientists have discovered a method of making whey, a by-product from cheese making, into transparent, edible, 100% biodegradable film ideal for keeping fruit and veggies fresher for longer.


Plastics made from... sweetcorn?


If you look in the kitchen cupboards right now, you're likely to find all the ingredients for a bioplastic: corn starch (made from sweetcorn kernels, used to thicken gravy), vegetable oil and water. Blended together and briefly heated, these transform into a transparent, flexible and tough plastic substitute, ideal for a wide range of uses...

>> Growing numbers of eco-minded restaurants and coffee shops are ditching the plastics for 100% biodegradable corn starch containers, shopping bags and cutlery for their takeaway service.

>> If you're a composter, look out for corn starch caddy liners in the shops!

>> Moving house? Go for corn starch packing peanuts!

>> Keen gardeners can even buy biodegradable corn starch mulch to block weeds.


Plastics made from... mushrooms?

Mushrooms have webs of thread-like roots, known as mycelium, and researchers have discovered ways to use these meshes to create 100% biodegradable industrial strength packaging.

With companies such as Dell already trusting the fungus-grown packaging with their servers, we hope polluting polystyrene will soon become one of those 'remember when' memories! 


What can we do today?

>> Reduce how much plastic you buy - why not go on a 'plastic diet'?  

>> Reuse plastic items where possible. For starters, here's how to reuse polystyrene, reuse plastic milk bottles and reuse plastic pop bottles.

>> Recycle as much plastic as you can. This excellent short animation shows how your plastic will be recycled - plus don't forget to buy products made from recycled plastic.


What are your thoughts on our plastic use and the rise of these bioplastic alternatives? Share your comments on with us here or via Twitter and Facebook!